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MARKETING MIX: PROFILE: MORAL MINORITY - BRUCE GYNGELL GROUP MD YORKSHIRE TELEVISION

’I am not a moralist. I am not Mary Whitehouse.’ Bruce Gyngell, chief executive of Yorkshire Television, is a man who speaks in sweeping statements, and in one sentence can invoke controversy. His latest move, to take Hollywood Lovers off prime-time ITV in the Yorkshire-Tyne Tees region, grabbed national newspaper headlines last week and reopened the debate on media morality.

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’I am not a moralist. I am not Mary Whitehouse.’ Bruce Gyngell,

chief executive of Yorkshire Television, is a man who speaks in sweeping

statements, and in one sentence can invoke controversy. His latest move,

to take Hollywood Lovers off prime-time ITV in the Yorkshire-Tyne Tees

region, grabbed national newspaper headlines last week and reopened the

debate on media morality.



Gyngell’s quest to clean up television has met with the approval of his

audience. Well, that’s what he says. YTTV’s potential audience of 8.4

million viewers was instead treated to The Best of Whicker’s World.

Unofficial viewing figures showed that just 918,000 people tuned in, in

stark contrast to over 1.4 million who tuned in to Hollywood Men last

February.



Although he dismisses accusations of censorship, Gyngell is confident he

is doing the right thing. ’I have a gut feeling about these things.



You don’t treat an audience in a cavalier fashion. I do believe that I

am in tune with audiences.’



His argument is that no society believes sex should be performed in

public, so why should it be acceptable on TV? ’People don’t get down on

a cocktail party floor and get on with it, do they?’ he thunders.



So is Gyngell a prude? No, say those who know him. He’s far from

politically correct, according to one ex-colleague. ’There is this

strange dichotomy, that one minute he will moralise and the next minute

he makes a comment about some woman walking down the corridor and her

large breasts.’



Born in Melbourne in 1929, he is described as a tall, slim man who is

not without sex appeal. Gyngell was the first person to appear on

Australian TV when it launched in 1956, as an announcer for Channel 9.

Eight years later he became the station’s managing director.



He is a man of outward contradictions, being overtly emotional, yet

possessing a ruthless streak. On the one hand, he encouraged a family

atmosphere at TV-am, where he told staff to wear pink because it was an

uplifting colour, and discouraged black. But when the technicians went

on strike in 1987 he unceremoniously sacked 229 of them.



Gyngell’s penchant for pink hasn’t rubbed off on all his colleagues, but

the sentiment has. BSkyB sales and marketing director Tony Vickers, an

ex-colleague at TV-am and godfather to Gyngell’s son Harry, says: ’TV-am

was run as a family. We did not always wear pink shirts, but the eternal

summertime worked well.’



The breakfast slot captured over two-thirds of the morning TV

audience.



But it took its toll. Gyngell suffered a heart attack and has since

become a ’fitness freak’, says one ex-colleague. ’When he was on a

macrobiotic diet he suffered from the most dreadful flatulence, so no

one dared to go into his office after lunch.’



Those who have worked with him describe a faddish, likeable man with a

great deal of verve. Mike Hollingsworth, former director of programmes

at TV-am, fired by Gyngell in 1986, says: ’I like him despite our

fall-out at TV-am. He’s a man you can’t dislike for long because he

means what he says.’



Hollywood Lovers is not the first show Gyngell has banned from YTTV’s

airwaves. ITV’s late-night programme schedule designed to pull in male

viewers, such as The Good Sex Guide, Carnal Knowledge and God’s Gift,

were censored by Gyngell because he thought they were inappropriate.



Also worrying for ITV is Gyngell’s attitude to the selling of the ITV

Network. As chairman of the merged international sales houses of

Granada, LWT and Yorkshire-Tyne Tees, he has clear views on how ITV

programmes should be branded, which go against existing marketing

strategy for branding the ITV Network. ’Where do you find ITV except in

the minds of sales house and advertising agencies? We would be much

better off if we called ourselves Channel 3 Carlton, Channel 3 LWT, as

we do with Channel 3 North East.’



Since joining Yorkshire he is credited with raising the profile of

programming while rejuvenating classics such as Emmerdale. Ironically,

the soap is becoming infamous for its late-afternoon sex scenes, but of

course it doesn’t qualify as sleaze because it is set in the English

countryside, not Hollywood. ’Bloody Hollywood film stars are pretty

shallow to start with,’ mutters Gyngell.



BIOGRAPHY

1974-1975

Chairman of network planning committee,

ITCA (Australia)

1984-1991

Managing director and chairman,

TV-am

1993-1995

Executive chairman,

Nine Network (Australia)

1995-present

Group managing director and chief executive,

Yorkshire Television

1995-present

Chairman,

British Independent Television Enterprises



This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk

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