Bruce Gyngell, pink-thinking TV pioneer, dies aged 71

Jane Robins,Media Correspondent
Saturday 09 September 2000 00:00
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Bruce Gyngell, the television executive who ran TV-am and pioneered sofa-based breakfast television, has died at the age of 71.

Bruce Gyngell, the television executive who ran TV-am and pioneered sofa-based breakfast television, has died at the age of 71.

Mr Gyngell, a charismatic Australian with a belief in the mystical qualities of the colour pink, became best known as Margaret Thatcher's favourite broadcaster.

Through the 1980s he ran a hugely successful TV-am, turning it from near bankruptcy to one of the world's most profitable television stations. In his own words, he "set out to make TV-am eternal summer, so lost, lonely people could turn on and feel warm and bright".

In 1988, Mr Gyngell took a tough stance during a bitter strike at the television station. An admiring Mrs Thatcher then described the broadcasting unions as "the last bastion of restrictive practices" and introduced an auction system for television franchises, which had the unintended effect of bringing about the demise of TV-am. During the franchise round Mr Gyngell demanded that the staff "think pink" and "pool spiritual energy", but he none the less lost when GMTV bid £34.6m to TV-am's £14.1m.

Soon afterwards, he caused a stir by standing up in Claridge's ballroom to read out a letter handwritten on House of Commons notepaper. It read: "Dear Bruce, when I see how some of the other licences have been awarded, I am mystified that you did not receive yours, and heartbroken ... I am only too painfully aware that I was responsible for the legislation. Yours, Margaret."

Mr Gyngell began his British television career in the 1970s after being recruited by Lew Grade to ATV, which held the ITV franchise for the Midlands. After the loss of the TV-am franchise he went to Australia, returning to Britain in 1995 as managing director of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees.

He died in hospital on Thursday night from lung cancer, diagnosed in May last year. He was not a smoker. The BBC director general, Greg Dyke, said: "Bruce was one of the more colourful characters in our business ... The industry will be a duller place without him."

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