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Friday, 8 September, 2000, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Former TV-am boss dies
Bruce Gyngell
Bruce Gyngell wanted TV-am to make viewers feel "warm and bright"
Bruce Gyngell, the former managing director of breakfast broadcaster TV-am, has died at the age of 71 after a battle with cancer.

The Australian television executive died on Thursday night in the private Lister Hospital, in Chelsea, London, said David Keighley, a family friend and formerly director of corporate affairs at TV-am.

Mr Gyngell, who was the first person to appear on Australian TV in 1957, was brought in to revive TV-am in 1984.

He had been handed the task of running the loss-making company, which broadcast ITV's breakfast programmes, by fellow Australian Kerry Packer, who invested in the station at the lowest point of its fortunes.

Profitable station

In his own words, Mr Gyngell "set out to make TV-am eternal summer, so lost, lonely people could turn on and feel warm and bright".

The gimmicks used by Mr Gyngell and Greg Dyke - now director general of the BBC - included the puppet Roland Rat, who became a huge favourite.

TV-am studios
TV-am studios: The company was profitable under Gyngell
Mr Gyngell's no-nonsense management style was said to have won the admiration of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but it was not enough to help him hang on to the breakfast franchise when it came up for auction in 1991.

Mrs Thatcher sent him a letter sympathising with the company's plight when it lost the contract to what is now GMTV.

Mr Dyke said on Friday: "Bruce was one of the more colourful characters in our business.

"He was widely liked. The industry will be a duller place without him."

Sir David Frost commented: "He was a great Australian, who loved England. And the feeling was mutual."

Despite building TV-am up into one of the world's most profitable TV stations, his 14m bid was overshadowed by GMTV's successful offer of 34m.

Later he was back in the headlines as a crusader against sex and violence on television.

His imprint can still be seen in certain areas of British TV

Mike Morris
Former TV-am presenter Mike Morris, who now works on Yorkshire's Calendar local news programme, called him "colourful, eccentric and unpredictable".

"His imprint can still be seen in certain areas of British TV, but occasionally he tripped over his own hubris. He was unforgettable."

Michael Parkinson - who helped found TV-am in 1983 - said: "He was a very elegant, entertaining man. He had this extraordinary career.

"He turned TV-am pink, and a fat lot of good that did him."

Strong principles

Mr Gyngell, who had cut his teeth in television in his native Australia, became managing director of ATV under Lord Grade in the early 1970s, and was responsible for popular programmes such as The Saint and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

After the loss of the TV-am franchise, he went back to Australia as executive chairman of the Nine network.

Bruce was one of the more colourful characters in our business - the industry will be a duller place without him

Greg Dyke
But he returned to the UK in 1995 as managing director of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees, where he stayed until it was taken over by rival Granada in September 1997.

While there, he banned prime time documentary series Hollywood Lovers from his region's screens, even though the company had contributed 120,000 towards its production costs.

Mr Gyngell said he objected to some of the more explicit content of the shows.

In May, 1997, he told the Cambridge Union television was now dominated by takeover tycoons who put profit before quality, and warned TV was a "cultural asset" in danger of being "crushed by bean counters".

He continued to work as international chairman of the Nine network, responsible for buying and selling overseas acquisitions.

Preference for pink

Although he never smoked, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 1999.

He was well known for his love affair with the colour pink. He had a pink office, and always wore pink shirts.

A trampoline was also fitted in his office as a cure for executive stress.

Mr Gyngell is survived by second wife Kathy, a journalist and television producer, and their children Adam, 15, and Jamie, 13.

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