Are Carolyn McCall’s ears burning? Piers Morgan bumps into ITV boss Kevin Lygo at the cricket – two days after being cleared by Ofcom (but whatever COULD they have talked about?)
- Piers Morgan watches England v India cricket match from same corporate box as ITV executive Kevin Lygo
- His appearance at The Oval comes two days after he was cleared by Ofcom of breaching broadcasting rules
- ITV boss Carolyn McCall has faced pressure to explain why she tried to suppress Mr Morgan’s free speech
Every gossip columnist in London would love to have been a fly on the wall at the cricket today, after Piers Morgan bumped into ITV executive Kevin Lygo in the stands.
Mr Morgan watched the cricket match from the same corporate box at The Oval in London as Mr Lygo – the man in charge of programming at the channel – just two days after the former Good Morning Britain host was cleared by Ofcom over his criticism of Meghan Markle.
The broadcasting watchdog unequivocally backed Mr Morgan’s right to free speech, and said attempts to silence him amounted to a ‘chilling restriction on freedom of expression’ after he was forced out at GMB over the episode.
The 56-year-old former GMB presenter was watching England v India on day two of the fourth test after teasing earlier this week that he is open to having his old job back.
It follows claims from insiders that Mr Lygo is as a ‘big fan’ of Mr Morgan. The 63-year-old, who is ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment, was sat one row in front of Mr Morgan – and their appearance together could fuel rumours about the presenter returning.
But one person who wasn’t in the box with them was ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall who has faced pressure this week to explain why she tried to suppress Mr Morgan’s free speech after Meghan complained to her directly.
An ITV source has told MailOnline that the network has ‘no current plans’ to invite Mr Morgan back to present Good Morning Britain, but he will continue to work with him on his Life Stories interview programmes.
But his wife Celia Walden told GMB this week that her husband has ‘some irons in the fire’ and ‘won’t be kicking around the house for much longer.’
Former Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan (top circle) and ITV executive Kevin Lygo (bottom circle) at the cricket today
Mr Morgan and My Lygo watched on during day two of the fourth test match between England and India at The Kia Oval today
Piers Morgan today watched the England cricket match from the same corporate box at The Oval as ITV executive Kevin Lygo
Mr Morgan’s appearance at the cricket comes just two days after he was cleared by Ofcom of breaching broadcasting rules
Mr Morgan watches England v India in the fourth test at The Oval today two days after he was cleared by Ofcom
Mr Morgan is pictured at the cricket at The Oval in London today, six months after he quit Good Morning Britain in March
Mr Morgan was cleared by the media watchdog on Wednesday of any wrongdoing after he questioned Meghan Markle’s claims over her mental health following her interview with Oprah Winfrey in March.
And it emerged yesterday that Mr Morgan’s ex-colleagues now want him reinstated as co-host alongside Susanna Reid, 50, to boost ratings, as the ITV morning show has lost nearly a third of its viewers since he left in March.
GMB has lost a third of its average monthly audience since Piers Morgan quit in March
Good Morning Britain has lost more than a third of its average monthly audience since Piers Morgan quit in March, MailOnline can reveal today.
The ITV breakfast programme had an average audience of 883,478 in March, but this was at just 570,000 in August – equating to a fall of 35.5 per cent or 313,478 viewers in five months.
This is a much bigger drop than the one suffered by BBC Breakfast, which has lost 227,352 viewers or 15.5 per cent of its audience over the same time period, from 1,468,261 in March to 1,240,909 in August.
Audiences were much higher in March when the country was in its third national Covid-19 lockdown, with GMB overtaking BBC Breakfast for the first and only time on March 9 – the day Piers Morgan walked off set. On that day, 1,290,000 watched GMB against 1,250,000 tuning into BBC Breakfast.
But GMB has lost 86,126 more viewers than BBC Breakfast since March, when comparing this average to the August average. It also has not had a monthly figure above 700,000 since then.
A spokesman for GMB told MailOnline yesterday: ‘Good Morning Britain’s audience share year-to-date stands at 22 per cent, which is in line with 2020, and prior to that, higher than all previous years since launch.
‘GMB continues to perform well therefore in 2021, and is also posting year-on-year increases for family audiences, and 16-34 year old viewers.’
A show source told MailOnline: ‘There is a growing movement among staff bidding for Piers to return. GMB really hasn’t been the same without him and now he’s been cleared by Ofcom, they feel there’s no reason why he can’t be reunited with Susanna.
‘They appreciate bosses won’t enjoy making a U-turn but it will be for the good of the show, which to put it bluntly, is in need of saving. They should swallow their pride and do the right thing for GMB.’
Mr Morgan jokingly asked ‘do I get my job back?’ in a tweet posted shortly after the Ofcom ruling was announced, which he described as a ‘resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios’.
But Mr Morgan later added: ‘I put that post on social media asking if I’d get my job back to prove a point. I wouldn’t go back, not without a public apology and I’m not going to get one.
‘I’ve got much bigger things coming up. The future is exciting. The next project is global, it’s big. I can’t say what but people are going to hear about it within the next few weeks.’
And it was also reported this week that Mr Lygo had ‘no plans’ to rehire Mr Morgan, with a senior GMB source telling the Sun: ‘The bosses know they need to give the show an entire refresh and will do so in the next couple of months.
‘That’s not going to involve Piers though, the chances of him returning are slim to zero. Kevin is a big fan and has always said so, but he’s fighting a losing battle internally sadly.’
The media regulator cleared ITV and Mr Morgan after receiving a record 58,000 complaints on the back of his comments about Meghan the morning after her interview with Oprah was broadcast in the UK.
During her chat with the US talk show queen, the Duchess alleged her mental health became so bad she ‘didn’t want to be alive any more’ and she did not receive the help she asked for from Buckingham Palace.
Plus, she also claimed that an unnamed member of the Royal Family had queried ‘how dark’ her son Archie’s skin might be.
The Duchess also filed a complaint herself with Ofcom and ITV in response to Mr Morgan’s tirade when the outspoken host said he ‘didn’t believe a word she said’ and that he ‘wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report’.
Explaining their decision to clear Mr Morgan’s of any wrongdoing, the regulator said there was ‘public interest in having an open and frank debate’ on both mental health and suicide, and race.
Mr Morgan, pictured with Ms Reid in March, quit ITV’s Good Morning Britain amid the row
Piers Morgan and his wife Celia Walden at the GQ Men of the Year Awards in London last night
And on both issues, Ofcom ruled that despite potential for offence, Mr Morgan’s comments had been sufficiently contextualised by challenges from other presenters and guests and by hosting several contributors who could speak decisively and with authority on racial issues.
Indeed, Mr Morgan’s heated confrontation with weatherman Alex Beresford, who supported Meghan in her claims, caused the host to walk off set before returning to anchor the rest of the show.
And Ofcom also stated Mr Morgan was ‘entitled’ to say he ‘disbelieved the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s allegations and to hold and express strong views that rigorously challenged their account.’
They added that the restriction of such views ‘would be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and audience.’
Speaking on GMB yesterday morning, Mr Morgan’s former co-host Reid admitted the ruling had put her in an ‘awkward situation’.
She said: ‘What struck me about the Ofcom ruling, on the one hand, I’ve got my friend Piers Morgan, and on the other, I’ve got my bosses at ITV.
‘So it’s obviously a slightly awkward moment right now.’
When asked if she was ‘devastated’ Mr Morgan would not be returning to the show this morning, she replied: ‘It was quite a moment, wasn’t it?’
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