Morning, this is the news - 30 years of breakfast television

The national BBC Breakfast set

The national BBC Breakfast set

First published in Leader The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

As the BBC marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of breakfast television STUART ARNOLD talks to a familiar face on its early morning regional bulletins, newsreader Colin Briggs

“The alarm clock goes off at 4am, but invariably I am awake and up before that as your body clock gets used to it”, says Colin Briggs.

The Northern Echo:
4am alarm: BBC Breakfast newsreader Colin Briggs

The newsreader, who has been presenting the Look North morning news bulletins for the past 13 years, is describing his typical working day and the shockingly early time he has to get up.

After a light breakfast and a mug of coffee, he’s then on his way from his home in Prudhoe, Northumberland, and is usually at broadcasting headquarters in Newcastle for 5am.

Instead of grumbling about the early starts, he describes how he is spoilt because of the lack of traffic on the roads on his morning commute.

Once in the office he’ll spend time checking with the BBC’s news teams so he can find out what is going on across the patch.

“It’s really hi-tech, sometimes I just turn around and shout across the office ‘What have you got?’ or ‘What’s happening?’,” he jokes.

“It’s a relatively understaffed time of the day – people have this great idea that you have a cast of thousands working with you.

“But the reality is there is just two of us.

“There’s me and I make sure the words fit the amount of space we have got for the bulletins.

“Then there is the director/vision mixer who looks after the technical side of it and talks in my ear to tell me how much time we have got, what cameras they want me on and various other things.

“I would point out that I also don’t have a hairdresser or make-up lady in the morning.

“There are not many middle-aged men who sit down in the early hours of the morning and paint out the bags under their eyes to try and make them look a little bit healthy.”

Briggs says his job is “challenging, but also rewarding” and can involve much chopping and changing in terms of the script and any other additional edits that need to be made.

“If things go wrong you carry on and hopefully people don’t notice, although audiences know instinctively what is right and what’s not and are incredibly generous with you if you are making the best of a bad job,” he says.

He has a certain self-effacing charm that puts you at ease and is unfailingly polite. During the course of our interview he throws in the odd anecdote and describes how one time he presented a bulletin in semi-darkness because of a lights failure in the studio.

Then more bizarrely there was the occasion when a streak of light shot across a live backdrop in the studio when he was presenting, which some believed was a UFO.

The subsequent video went viral with hundreds of thousands of internet hits across the world.

When I ask him his secret to surviving each working day he says he has a snooze in the afternoon once he’s finished his shift, before he “emerges blinking” at about 5pm.

“The one thing you learn about this job is what you can and can’t do and eventually your body tells you need some sleep,” he says.

Originally from Southampton, he has a wife Sue and two grown-up children, Guy and Charlotte.

His background is in radio broadcasting and press and PR, having trained as a journalist when he left school.

It was 2000 when he moved into television full-time and began presenting the news bulletins for Look North.

A lover of classic cars, he’s a Led Zeppelin fan and occasionally sings in a part-time rock band.

He also has a caravan and dreams of flying spitfires in his spare time.

Briggs concedes that he has announced some “pretty grim stuff”, such as tragic deaths or hundreds of job losses.

“You are telling people bad news so that is a responsibility, although there are other stories which strike a funny bone and make you smile,” he says.

He had some bad news of his own when in 2008 he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer, with doctors removing a lump from his neck.

The condition isn’t curable, but is treatable and sufferers can live with it for many years.

He spoke publicly about his diagnosis and also had a friend film some of his radiotherapy treatment for a report.

“I got loads of response from people who had cancer or had family members who were about to go in for treatment,” he says.

“In an odd way having had the diagnosis probably saved my life because they discovered my blood pressure was ridiculously high – I could have keeled over at any time.

“I have since become more health aware and have also been working with the Charlie Bear cancer charity over the past few years, which has been something constructive.”

Briggs concedes that the nature of breakfast television means that his audience is not exhaustively watching every second because they are often busy doing other things in preparation for work or taking the kids to school.

But for him 30 years on it remains relevant.

“There are some people who the only news they will see during the day is the breakfast bulletin because of the way their lives are structured so it’s important,” he says.

“When there’s something extreme be it the weather with floods or snow people still tune in because they want to find out what’s going on and how it affects them and that is reassuring.”

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