Basilia Weir discusses why ‘Britain’s favourite boomer’ Piers Morgan leaving GMB doesn’t solve the problems he represents in the media.
It’s been over a month since Piers Morgan stormed off the set of Good Morning Britain. Weeks since he seemingly could not bear listening to his colleague Alex Beresford describe what it’s like to experience racism first-hand. It’s unsurprising that this was the final straw for Morgan, with him leaving the show for good later that week.
I think we can all agree that Piers Morgan isn’t the greatest guy. In preparation for this article, I made a mind-map of all the reprehensible things he’s done. I’ll synthesise it for you here: racism, misogyny, transphobia, platforming other bigots, and helping one become the US president. Then there’s the phone-hacking scandal that he was, at the very least, on the periphery of. So, why, might you ask, does he still have a job? Surely this is the sort of stuff you get fired for, right? Wrong.
Whilst I see no merit in rehashing every bad and/or bigoted thing Morgan has done in the span of his career, I think it’s important to examine the power structures that have kept him employed, platformed and profiting despite it all.
First up: his identity. What is Piers Morgan if not White supremacy persevering? He is a cisgender White man in a heterosexual relationship. Pretty much the British media’s equivalent of a permit to say and do what you want, unfortunately. However, he has remained especially unscathed. BBC News anchor Huw Edwards was reprimanded for merely posting a picture of himself with the Welsh flag. And yet, Morgan has been allowed to persistently bully a woman of colour on air for years, with no public repercussions from ITV. Interesting. That leads me onto the next level of this mess: bigotry sells.
Sex used to sell. Now it’s transphobic jokes that boomers might get a little chuckle out of but will cause a media frenzy. That media frenzy brings in clicks and views – people are talking about your programme. For the wrong reasons, sure, but for years you’ve never managed to get ahead of BBC Breakfast’s ratings. So, why not belittle Meghan Markle’s suicidal thoughts on TV if it means you’ll finally get to overtake that pesky Dan Walker? I’m being glib, but it’s, unfortunately, true: GMB finally beat BBC Breakfast’s ratings on Morgan’s last day. This is proof of how broken our media institutions are. They don’t champion good quality journalism or entertainment – they champion messy chauvinism that brings in views and therefore profits. And who’s at the helm of this for-profit bigotry? ITV.
In October 2019, ITV launched their “Britain Get Talking” campaign, and the syntax isn’t even the worst thing about it. The campaign aimed to bring families across Britain closer together, and foster discussions about mental health. And then the channel continued to platform a bully and line their pockets from his vitriol.
What did that bully say live on TV three weeks ago? That he thought Meghan Markle – a woman he has persecuted on air for years – was lying about her suicidal thoughts. Really seems like ITV is invested in the collective mental health of our nation. Their lip service to mental health becomes even more chilling when you remember that barely a year ago, one of their most beloved TV personalities, Caroline Flack, took her own life.
ITV has a lot to answer for. They gave a megaphone to Morgan’s foul rhetoric, despite being aware of its weight and consequences. However, it’s not lost on me that after leaving – leaving! – GMB, Piers Morgan still has an audience. This is where the nine lives of the cis-White man come in. No matter how much he pretends, he has been neither cancelled nor deplatformed. He just released a lengthy, glorified diary entry in the Daily Mail. Then there’s his 7.9 million Twitter followers and his ability to simply create a YouTube channel from which to freely spout his nonsense. Not that he needs to, since I’m sure his phone is ringing off the hook with job offers from “media” outlets, dying to make some money from Britain’s favourite boomer. He’s the pantomime villain we love to hate, which brings me to my conclusion.
The power structures of British media do not enable great journalism or healthy debate or insightful viewpoints. No – they enable for-profit bigotry. They rely on White mediocrity to enhance the bottom line; anchors like Piers Morgan use political incorrectness as a crutch and eventually become infamous for it. And when that political incorrectness garners one too many Ofcom complaints, it’s too late. Because the bigot has a platform the size of a small nation and doesn’t need your primetime spot to circulate their nonsense anymore. So, the conclusion here is that we need to dismantle these White supremacist, capitalistic media structures that create the Piers Morgans of the world. It shouldn’t take 57,000 Ofcom complaints for bigotry to be taken seriously. That number says a lot about the way our media works.