Firing Piers Morgan can't disguise CNN's wider failings
Piers Morgan on Feb. 18, 2014. [YouTube]

However low the chat show host's audience had fallen, it was far from the worst on the cable channel

Many people, on both sides of the Atlantic, don't much like Piers Morgan, and most of them chirped up when his CNN interview show got cancelled. Too English, too cricket-obsessed, too crazy about gun culture? Perhaps. Morgan dutifully – and cheerily – ate bumper portions of humble pie. But there is a wider problem here, a CNN problem, that mere pie consumption doesn't reach.

Take a typical day of US cable news ratings just before the announcement of Morgan's exit broke, say Thursday 20 February. Daytime viewing overall: Fox News with an average audience 1,153,000; MSNBC with 358,000; CNN with 257,000. Over prime time (8pm to 11pm) the figures are: Fox, 1,856,000; MSNBC 785,000; CNN 323,000. Before Piers goes on air at 9pm, Bill O'Reilly for Fox (2,519,000 viewers) and Chris Hayes for MSNBC (778,000) both wallop CNN's Anderson Cooper, with a mere 316,000. Morgan's 364,000 at 9pm is actually CNN's best/least-worst score of the day.

In short, though you wouldn't quite know it, CNN's American cable channel – with a slightly greater reach than any of its rivals – performs miserably against them. It recovers a bit when there's big breaking news, but limps and slumps on a daily diet of headlines and chat. And its difficulty is sadly evident. Fox peddles rightwing credentials, MSNBC does a liberal turn. But CNN ploughs right down the middle: ostensibly fair, balanced, and miserably watched in a 24-hour TV environment which doesn't believe in the passing show and can't make events – just headline stuff – into a viewing habit. Blame Piers, by all means, if you want to, but wonder about the supposed allure of non-stop fairness and balance as you do. © Guardian News and Media 2014