In Depth

Why has Piers Morgan's CNN talk show been cancelled?

As ratings for prime-time show plummet, critics question if Morgan is just too British for the US

THREE years after taking over from Larry King's prime-time talk show on CNN, Piers Morgan has been axed. The network confirmed the news last night, while Morgan gave an interview to the New York Times saying that the final episode is likely to air next month. The former Daily Mirror editor seems keen to stay at the network, suggesting he might do "fewer appearances to greater effect", such as occasional high-profile interviews. So why has the show been cancelled?

Dismal ratings

Essentially, Morgan just couldn't bring in a big enough audience. His 9pm show debuted with two million viewers, but this has fallen to around 270,000 in recent weeks and regularly trails far behind rivals Fox News and MSNBC. It has become an "embarrassment to himself and executives and a lead weight on the network as a whole", says The Independent. Morgan himself admits it has been a "painful period" and says that "lately we have taken a bath in the ratings".

It was too British

New York Times journalist David Carr, who interviewed Morgan this weekend, suggests that "crossing an ocean" to replace Larry King was never a good idea. He says it is difficult for Morgan to "speak credibly on significant American events because, after all, he just got here". Old hands in the television news business suggest that there are two things a presenter cannot have: an accent or a beard, he adds. "Mr Morgan is clean shaven and handsome enough, but there are tells in his speech – the way he says the president's name for one thing (Ob-AA-ma) – that suggest that he is not from around here."

Cricket obsession

With Morgan's "Britishness", comes an obsession with cricket – a subject that is not helping his popularity in the US, says Carr. The presenter regularly takes to Twitter to talk about the game, and recently mounted a strong defence of Kevin Pietersen, who was sacked from the England cricket team. "Mr Morgan might want to lay off the steady cricket references if he is worried about his credibility with American audiences," says Carr. On top of that, he adds, the only football Morgan cares about "is round".

Anti-gun campaign

Morgan's lectures in favour of gun control have led to some high-profile on-air clashes and hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition for him to be deported, notes the Press Gazette. Morgan himself tells the New York Times: "Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarising, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it."

Phone-hacking allegations

Several newspapers point out that Morgan was interviewed under caution at the end of last year by British officers over phone-hacking allegations. In a statement earlier this month, Morgan confirmed that he had been questioned under caution by Scotland Yard detectives on 6 December. However, a spokeswoman for CNN denied that this was a factor in his dismissal. She told The Guardian. "The decision had nothing to do with the hacking interview – not at all."

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