Each Friday, Points North gives a senior media figure a platform to air their views on a topical or relevant issue.
This week it’s Adam Bullimore, Editor of BBC Breakfast. In the wake of Bill Turnbull’s departure from the red sofa, he gives an insight into the particular challenges of finding a new presenter.
Close to three million people watched as Bill Turnbull said ‘bye bye’ on BBC Breakfast last Friday. ‘Breakfast’ has a special relationship with its audience. It’s a part of so many people’s morning routine. Our presenters are often stopped – typically in a checkout queue – to be told by a viewer with a nudge and a wink, how they wake up every day with them, get dressed in front of them, and these days, even take a shower with them.
Perhaps not surprising then that audience research suggests ‘trustworthiness’ and ‘warmth and friendliness’ are the most important qualities in a BBC Breakfast presenter. ‘Friendly’ wouldn’t be as near to the top of the list for an evening newscaster.
Our presenters know that they’re ‘guests’ in people’s homes at a busy time of day when visitors aren’t usually very welcome. So we think hard about our blend of news and information, and how we present it.
‘Breakfast’ isn’t a three-hour-long news bulletin. Each hour is shaped to deliver essential news and information over a relatively short time. A typical viewer sees around half an hour of the programme, and from their feedback, we know that they use points across the show as a marker for their early morning routines.
We reach more than six and a half million people every day, well over double that of our nearest rivals. It’s a formula that’s incredibly successful and while we’re always looking to refine it, we’d be foolish to change it just because a presenter leaves.
My inbox is peppered with hopeful queries from wannabe presenters wanting their chance on the sofa. Ultimately, of course, any choice of new presenter is partially a subjective one. Nobody is universally popular. Social media can offer painful, instant feedback for someone brave enough to look.
Bill had sat on that sofa for 15 years. Replacing someone so popular, and so good at their job, is not easy. In Dan Walker we think we’ve found someone with all qualities needed to follow in Bill’s footsteps. He’s already proving popular with our viewers after his first week on the sofa.
Presenters are hugely important but the old cliché that the programme is bigger than any individual is absolutely true. Working on Breakfast everyone from presenters to producers quickly learn that no matter what happens, the programme is back on air at 6am tomorrow.