“My boss has told me to go so I’m going.”
With those few words, and thanks to viewers and colleagues, regional television giant Geoff Clark bowed out of BBC South East on Thursday night.
Last night’s broadcast provoked a further outcry from viewers, with many saying they will no longer watch the programme and switch to its rival news show ITV Meridian Tonight.
The man credited with transforming a ratings disaster into a flagship news show watched by more viewers than rival ITV Meridian Tonight made his final broadcast without his usual colleague Beverley Thompson by his side. She had left in tears 24 hours earlier .
He was joined instead by Natalie Graham. After Clark made his parting comment - “As Beverley said last night, that’s it. It really is it from me” - she gestured towards him, and without looking to camera, said: “Thank you Geoff. Goodbye.”
It was perhaps a sign of colleagues’ affection for the experienced anchors and anger at management’s shock decision to oust them six weeks earlier than expected.
Despite a lengthy campaign by viewers and MPs, the BBC ignored the protests and pressed ahead with a decision that appears to have won little public support.
In a comment just before Clark’s final show, the BBC hailed the pair as “excellent journalists” which makes the decision even more bewildering.
It added: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank them both for their commitment and hard work on the programme and we know they will be missed.”
After Clark’s final broadcast, viewers expressed further outrage to Kent Online.
Lea wrote: “I think it is absolutely disgusting the way in which these two wonderful presenters have been treated. My husband and I won’t bother watching BBC South East Today again.”
Sally Russell said: “I am very sad to see Geoff and Beverley will no longer be presenting South East Today. I have met Geoff and he is a lovely genuine man. He and Beverley make a really good team. They will be missed. Meridian here I come.”
Edwin and Beryl Stiles accused the BBC of a ridiculous decision. “We will no longer watch the BBC News and will view the Meridian News in the future.”
Martin Jackson, a respected Kent-based media commentator, this month called the BBC “bonkers” for the decision.
With Clark and Thompson gone, bosses will be looking anxiously at the ratings to see if their gamble has paid off.
As someone familiar with the situation said: “Managers have staked their own jobs on this change because if in six or 12 months time things have got worse, I think their positions will be untenable.”
For a more detailed look at this story, see Kent Business.
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