Top Ten Breakfast Television Presenters

Radio Times readers have placed Susannah Reid as their favourite BBC Breakfast host to date in a poll to mark three decades of beeb early mornings.

Daybreak 2010 Launch picture

This week ITV celebrates 30 years since the launch of TV-am, so a perfect time for ATV Today to look at ten of the best remembered breakfast faces from BBC One, ITV and Channel 4.

Breakfast: Dermot and Natasha10 – Natasha Kaplinsky and Dermot Murnaghan

Newsreaders Natasha Kaplinsky and Dermot Murnaghan were united to take BBC Breakfast into a mix of hard news and lighter features. A combination of the Breakfast News and Breakfast Time formats had been slowly merged since 2000, with the pair taking the lead roles in 2002.

Following BBC Breakfast undergoing its more warmer revamp the show saw off competition from GMTV, with Kaplinsky’s light and Murnaghan’s serious mix recreating somewhat the previous successes of TV-am anchors Mike Morris and Lorraine Kelly and Anne Diamond and Nick Owen. Some highbrow types within the BBC, and viewers alike, still frown upon a popular news pairing for corporation broadcasts, however both proved popular with everyday viewers.

Natasha left in 2005 for Channel 5’s news offering while former ITN presenter Dermot moved to SKY News in 2007.


Breakfast Time, Frank Bough9 – Frank Bough

Frank became the nations first main national breakfast host when the BBC decided to rush in their own morning show following the announcement ITV was to launch TV-am. Originally the beeb worked on the idea of putting ‘radio on TV’ by simply putting a TV camera into one of its network radio breakie shows, this idea never hit the air while ITV at the time, tied by ridiculous regulation, couldn’t launch the show in November 1982 – as they’d hoped – instead holding back until February to let the new Channel 4 become established.

It gave the BBC plenty of time to ruin ITV’s plans by launching Breakfast Time. Press speculation had been of the thinking the corporations new show would be a daytime version of Newsnight rather than the lighter Nationwide. How wrong they were.

Frank Bough introduced a relaxed magazine show within a sitting room setting at the Lime Grove studios. The show left TV-am looking like the copycat when they finally went to air two weeks later, in a sitting room set. However unlike the beeb’s warm offering hosts such as Michael Parkinson and David Frost offered no witty rapport, dressed in suits and provided a stuffy offering in comparison.

Frank’s warm and welcoming morning persona alongside the likes of Mike Smith, Selina Scott and Nick Ross reigned supreme until Bough quit the magazine show in December 1987.

He was sacked by the BBC a few months later when a sex and drugs scandal broke, reporting he enjoyed sex and cocaine parties while dressed in ladies lingerie. He declined returning to the programme in 2008 and 2013 to mark its anniversary, stating he had retired from broadcasting. After his sex shame he did return to the small screen notably presenting for ITV Sport.

The Big Breakfast and Chris Evans Radio 28 – Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin

When Channel 4 replaced their serious morning news programme with The Big Breakfast in 1992 it couldn’t have been more different from what had been offered to morning viewers previously.

From the same production company as late night rowdy music and chat show The Word the two hour Big Breakfast was a mix of light entertainment, quirky features, famous and bizarre guests mixed with silly competitions and a touch of news and weather. Produced in a house rather than a TV studio, the programme utilised rooms of the house for different segments. From games in the garden, interviews at the kitchen table and main presentation from the sitting room.

Fronted by the serious one, Gaby Roslin, and the zany other, Chris Evans, the show was a hit for the network thanks to its unique format and the disastrous launch of rival GMTV which controversially replaced TV-am.

Both Chris and Gabby departed long before the final axe fell in 2002 after nearly 5000 editions. Chris continues to rise and shine on BBC Radio 2’s breakfast show, while Gaby has hosted several other series including Children In Need and Television’s Greatest Hits.

Other regulars included Paula Yates, Lily Savage, Keith Chegwin, Richard Bacon and puppets Zig and Zag (pictured with Gaby above).

Breakfast, Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams7 – Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams

The pairing certainly had something, to be able to lure away viewers from GMTV and Daybreak, making BBC Breakfast the most watched morning programme in the UK.

Bill first worked for Breakfast Time as a reporter and later BBC News. In 1997 he was one of the anchors on the corporation’s rolling news service BBC News 24. He joined BBC Breakfast as a main host in 2001 alongside Sian on the weekend version of the programme before replacing Dermot Murnaghan on the main weekday show.

Sian Williams joined BBC Breakfast in 2001 as the secondary presenter, hosting weekend editions before taking over the lead role from Natasha Kaplinsky in 2005. Williams quit as the lead co-host in 2012 following the BBC’s decision to move the programme from London to Salford.

6 – John Stapleton and Penny Smith

GMTV: Penny Smith and John StapletonJohn is the only presenter to have worked on Breakfast Time, TV-am, GMTV and Daybreak in a key role. From 1983 to 1985, he worked for TV-am as a reporter and stand in presenter of Good Morning Britain. Following Breakfast Time’s more newsy revamp he switched to the BBC to co-host and report for their morning offering. While at the beeb he also fronted long running consumer show Watchdog.

In 1993 he returned to ITV first to anchor morning debate series The Time, The Place later joining the struggling GMTV as its main Newshour anchor alongside Penny Smith. Stapleton remained in that position until GMTV’s axe in 2010. With Daybreak he has co-presented the main programme as a stand in presenter as well as being one of the programmes senior reporters.

Penny Smith joined GMTV from SKY News four months after its launch as part of its revamp into a more TV-am styled format. Smith, as well as co-hosting Newshour alongside Stapleton, also anchored all the main news bulletins across the morning on GMTV until June 2010 as the programme began to wind down. Smith currently presents for local BBC radio.

5 – Fiona Phillips

GMTV: Fiona PhillipsFiona was a presenter you either loved or hated. She certainly divided the opinion of GMTV viewers over the years. While some found her gaffs a joy to view others found the whole thing embarrassing.

She started off on GMTV as the entertainment correspondent later based in America where she provided the latest celebrity gossip.

When Anthea Turner departed the GMTV sofa Fiona took over as main co-host alongside Eamonn Holmes. And the fun began, leading to Fifi being voted Britain’s most irritating celebrity in 2008, the same year she quit the programme. The Sun’s Telly Critic Ally Ross described her as the “moron’s moron” She co-hosted the show alongside others including Ben Shephard, Andrew Castle and Ross Kelly. 

Gaffs that either made you love Phillips or loathe her include her bias love for the Labour party, describing Tory David Cameron as the ’21st century Esther Rantzen’, announcing that she ‘didn’t want to scare anyone’ then went on to tell viewers that a visit to the hairdressers ‘could be fatal’ and suggesting the parents of a lost child could look on the bright side that ‘at least they’re now celebrities’.

Since leaving GMTV Fiona has guest presented Daybreak’s Lorraine programme, which to many her style is much better suited to.

4 – Roland Rat

TV-am: Roland RatCreated by Anne Wood under Greg Dyke’s attempt to turn the fortunes of TV-am around the famous rodent proved such a hit he eventually ventured out of the children’s output and ended up talking to celebs alongside more human presenters. Roland offered questions to everyone from Diana Dors to Doris Stokes.  Roland was brave enough to ask questions others may not have dared, such as asking actress Noele Gordon for a role on soap opera Crossroads which she’d recently been axed from to much press coverage and indignation from the actress.

After TV-am Roland continued television domination with a number of series on the BBC. In 2011 he offered to save Daybreak from a ratings disaster.

“They need me on there to save that early mornin’ bilge – yeahhhhhhh!!” he told ASDA magazine.

3 – Mike Morris and Lorraine Kelly

Lorraine Kelly and Mike Morris, TV-amTV-am’s Good Morning Britain bowed out in December 1992 after the telly regulator decided to issue the ITV breakfast licence to GMTV instead. At the time it was reported TV-am was the most popular and profitable television programme in the world.

The mix of populist features, celebrity chat and news had turned the fortunes around for TV-am. In 1988 the BBC gave up the cosy fight and turned Breakfast Time into a serious hard news show with faces such as Jeremy Paxman and Moria Stewart.

The later years saw the flagship ITV show fronted by former Thames Sport reporter Mike Morris and TV-am reporter Lorraine Kelly. Mike’s authority and Lorraine’s bubbly personality proved a hit with viewers. Mike went on to present Yorkshire Television’s local news show Calendar after his breakfast stint (including a short spell hosting a weekend programme for GMTV), while Lorraine moved over to GMTV and remains with Daybreak currently.

Mike Morris died in October last year aged 65.

2 – Eamonn Holmes

GMTV: Eamonn HolmesEamonn was, like Frank Bough, from a regional news background before finding network fame. Moving from UTV to the BBC he fronted the mid-morning series Open Air. When TV-am was axed in 1992 Holmes was hired as one of a number of presenters to front the incoming GMTV.

With Anne Davies he hosted the Friday edition of the show, while Michael Wilson and Fiona Armstrong anchored the other weekday slots. The programme aimed to be radically different from TV-am, with a more modern faster format. An apartment set replaced the cosy sitting room of Good Morning Britain.

This disastrous era saw ratings plunge and changes to the programme were made less than three months into its run. Armstrong was replaced by Lorraine Kelly while Wilson moved over to present the news.

Eamonn and Lorraine, in a set based on the old TV-am version, managed to turn the fortunes of GMTV around. Lorraine had been hired by the incoming company to front a later slot, following maternity leave she returned to that show, Eamonn was then joined by a succession of female co-hosts including Anthea Turner and Fiona Phillips. He quit GMTV in 2005 later switching to SKY News’ Sunrise breakfast news programme.

1 – Anne Diamond and Nick Owen

ATV Today: Anne and NickAnne and Nick became possibly the best known presenters of TV-am’s Good Morning Britain, hosting the daily magazine show from 1983 through to 1986. The pair were hired as the main anchors following the initial disastrous launch of TV-am with the failed ‘famous five’ including David Frost, Angela Rippon, Michael Parkinson, Anna Ford and Robert Kee.

Both Anne and Nick had worked for ATV Network’s regional news show ATV Today, but first co-hosted a news show together for Central Television in 1982. From Midland viewers to a national audience the rapport between the pair proved a successful part of the revamped breakfast shows format.

The duo were reunited to recapture their earlier success by the BBC, in Birmingham, where Good Morning with Anne and Nick aired nationally between 1992 and 1996. Anne is a regular panelist on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff and a regular on the radio while Nick anchors BBC regional news programme Midlands Today.

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