The comforting explanation for their failure is that ITV vastly overestimated the ability of star turns to draw an audience, just as the executive remuneration committees of Anglo-Saxon capitalism vastly overestimated the ability of superstar chief executives to deliver profits. "Stardom isn't a profession, it's an accident," said Lauren Bacall, who was wiser than many media managers. Some suggested that, without the help of the unsung production team on The One Show, who had made them famous, Chiles and Bleakley floundered. Although this argument is often true — showbusiness history is littered with stars who went from the BBC to ITV for more money and failed to hold on to the audience they once commanded — it cannot be a true reason for the Daybreak debacle. Chiles and Bleakley in fact took many members of The One Show production team with them. They were not egotists. They understood that the efforts of others helped make them famous.
The truth is more depressing. Chiles, Bleakley and their editors failed because they tried to push their show just an inch upmarket. They wanted to compete with the BBC's Breakfast, which is hardly television's equivalent of The Times or the Today programme, just a light programme with superficial news coverage. Chiles, who trained as a financial and sports reporter, was well-suited to the task. But his efforts were too much for the viewers. Media commentators have tried to cover up the dismal facts of the case by saying that Chiles's interest in football repelled women. This may be right, but the main reason for the disaster is that viewers could not stand the news of the great issues of the day that ought to concern every citizen interrupting the celebrity interviews, fashion tips and recipes, even for a short time.
The sad, silly story of Daybreak provides a good reason for cultural pessimism. ITV lost money because it overestimated the intelligence of its public. It did not sink low enough — a mistake, one assumes, that it will not make again.