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21-06-01 news
Byram to have her last Breakfast?

Irish glamour girl Amanda Byram and her future did not wake up to good news yesterday morning after her TV show The Big Breakfast looked like it was on the way out.

Producers are hoping not to be left with egg on their face as the once mighty Big Breakfast is facing being consigned to the vaults of television history.

Channel 4 bosses gave The Big Breakfast its final wake up call - it has been told to either freshen up or face the chop. Programme chiefs are inviting people to come up with new ingredients for the menu of the early morning slot, but also stress it might not necessarily spell the end of the nine-year-old show if it can get its act together.

Tim Gardam, C4's director of programmes, told news wire services "A revitalised Big Breakfast remains a strong contender to keep the slot." The station says it is "considering fresh programme ideas as potential alternatives" to the flagship show which has already undergone a series of revamps as presenters have come and gone.

From a high of 1.5 million viewers under original presenters Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin, the show plummeted to a fifth of that when former swimmer Sharron Davies took over in an ill-fated partnership with Rick Adams. Ratings improved again when cheeky chap Johnny Vaughan and saucy Denise Van Outen fronted the show, but subsequent combinations of presenters have failed to revive the interest generated by their special on-screen chemistry.

Vaughan's replacement, Paul Tonkinson, was ousted just weeks into the job earlier this year, to be replaced by former roving reporter Richard Bacon. Gardam says: "Any new proposal will have to convince us that it has the distinctiveness and invention to rival The Big Breakfast's appeal to its core audience."

The Big Breakfast will continue on Channel 4 until at least the New Year, the station said. It has thrown down the gauntlet to all TV producers to come up with an alternative and has given them until July 9 to submit proposals for a new format. Experts seem to be able to point out where the ailing breakfast show has gone wrong in recent months. Martin Frizell, editor of breakfast channel GMTV, the current success story of early morning television, says: "I think The Big Breakfast has slightly lost its way. Some of its original audience has grown up and moved on to other breakfast shows but they seem to have failed to capture the new kids coming through. Most of the kids appear to be moving towards new media or the satellite channels first thing in the morning. Because of all the channels which are now readily available, the market is very competitive for younger television viewers at that time of day. At the moment, The Big Breakfast is not funny and is not entertaining."

Debbie Goode, media studies lecturer, says: "I think that The Big Breakfast has probably dumbed down a little too much. Much of the original balance which was there between news, features and entertainment no longer exists in the current show. They seem to be purely concentrating on entertainment and, to be honest, I feel as though they have started to insult their audience a little too much."

But what ingredients are required to ensure we all enjoy the perfect television breakfast which leaves us feeling ready to face the day ahead? "The word we use is relevance," says Frizell. "Anybody involved in television knows that their programme has to be relevant to the viewers. We listen to our audience and produce a product which they want to see. There are four main components for a successful show - news, weather, making people laugh and telling them what they can watch on the television when they get home in the evening. Today for example we have been looking at the latest developments in the James Bulger case, foot-and-mouth and the Paddington report as our main news topics. We always know whether we have been doing a good programme or not by the thickness of the log book which is handed over by the duty officer at the end of each broadcast. As well as a duty officer we have also become more interactive. Our audience is now able to tell us what they think about the show through our own internet site."

Goode says: "We want to watch things which have a sense of humour in them. The world is too depressing to be confronted in its full horror at seven in the morning. People want to see what is happening to celebrities, hear the news and be kept up-to-date with current events. There seems to be too much speculation in the news at the moment. People don't want to hear a forecast of what might happen they want to be given the facts. I think some of the latest music and chart sounds do not go amiss before people are setting out for work either. But people don't want to be mentally challenged with quizzes. They want recipes which can help them come up with suggestions about what to eat later in the day. It should also have ideas about how to spend your evening leisure time. A successful breakfast show can do this whether it is telling us what is on the television, discussing what's new at the cinema or what music is about to be released."

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