Eamonn Holmes has revealed that he joined GB News because ‘options dried up’ and that he ‘didn't tick the boxes’ at ITV anymore.
The Belfast man – one of the longest-serving breakfast television anchors in the world – said he felt ‘appreciated’ at GB News and that the show he co-hosts with Isabel Webster had ‘declared independence’ from the rest of the channel and was straightforward journalism with no political agenda.
Holmes also said that there had been times during his career when ‘the Belfast fella’ had emerged, particularly when he witnessed bullying or mistreatment of his team.
And he told of one incident when he stepped in to defend a researcher who was being disrespected by the PR representative of an American actress, eventually telling the PR person to “f*** off.”
Writing in Saturday’s Guardian newspaper about his lengthy broadcasting career and his reasons for joining GB News in December last year, the 62-year-old said: “I made the jump to GB News because options dried up. The ‘wrong age’ at the ‘wrong stage’ – at some point it becomes very hard to get work.
“It was obvious that I didn’t tick the boxes for ITV anymore, and I wasn’t being treated with respect there,” he said.
“It was a self-esteem thing. You think: ‘Nah, I’m out of here! Bye!’ So that was it. And nothing’s changed: I play what I do straight. I’m not flying the flag for any political agenda.
“Our breakfast show probably has declared independence from the rest of the channel and Isabel and I do it the way we do it – as journalists.”
He added: “We have a relaxed approach and try to bend the rules when we can. GB News has been very welcoming – it’s nice to be appreciated.”
Recalling the incident with the American actress and her PR person, Holmes said he had noticed a change in the celebrity culture over the years and that a lot of bullying went on within celebrities’ entourages.
He said that while the TV industry was meant to be ‘nice and civil’, it sometimes created ‘monsters’, admitting the ‘Belfast fella’ in him had come out a few times when dealing with difficult people.
“I’m fine until someone is nasty to one of my team – then I will not back down from a fight,” he said.
“I’ve had guests over the years who’ve demanded their dressing rooms be painted a certain colour, or all the plastic be removed, with just 15 minutes’ notice.
“There was one time when an American actor came into the studio for an interview. Suddenly her PR person said to one of my researchers: ‘Oh, is there a couch? My client can’t sit on that couch.’
“I saw this altercation going on and stepped in and asked if there was a problem, saying: ‘Sorry – I didn’t realise you were being interviewed on the programme?’
“The PR person replied: ‘I’m not.’ So I said: ‘Well f*** off then’.”
The straight-talking presenter, who began his broadcasting career at UTV in 1979 as an agricultural reporter, said the farming brief – which he covered for two years – remained the ‘happiest’ period of his broadcasting career.
But he said that when he started out, he kept on a bar job because he wasn’t sure his TV career would last.
“When I got my next job on TV, Good Evening Ulster, I was also doing shifts in a sports bar,” said Holmes.
“One night the manager came to me and said: ‘Eamonn, what’s this all about? You serve them the news until 7pm and at half seven you serve them pints.
“I told him I didn’t think this TV lark would last. He pulled my bow tie off, took me outside for a beer and said: ‘Get out of here.’ And that was that.”
The former This Morning and Sky New presenter, who wanted to be a journalist from the age of 11, also talked about the ‘humiliating experience’ of being asked by HMRC for 10 years’ backdated national insurance. Holmes lost his bid in court to fight a £250,000 tax bill after HMRC claimed his former TV jobs were staff and not self-employed.
The stress of the court case, Holmes, said, caused him to develop shingles, just weeks before his son’s Declan’s wedding.
“I take paying taxes very seriously, but when something like this happens, people see you as some kind of tax dodger, and it was a humiliating experience,” he said.