Adam Boland: ‘My new book is my report card’

Boland book

Former Sunrise executive producer Adam Boland spoke to Miranda Ward about how his new memoir Brekky Central is mostly about his own failings, and why he can never return to commercial TV.

Adam Boland admitted he was caught “on the hop” when his memoir, which details both his time at Seven and Ten, was rushed into bookstores today following court action from Seven, but claimed “if anyone gets heavily criticised in the book, it’s me”.

Last Friday Network Seven started court action to get hold of the book prior to publication, with a view to an injunction if the former TV exec credited with turning around Sunrise had broken his confidentiality agreement with them.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Boland said: “It caught me on the hop as well, I didn’t know it was coming out today until about an hour before the press release went out.”

SUNRISE logoTitled Brekky Central, the memoir will detail Boland’s time in breakfast television, especially as the executive producer of the Sunrise show, and it is understood Seven is concerned Boland, who was a key player in the turnaround of the breakfast program, could be in breach of a confidentiality agreement with the network over elements of the book.

“I understand where the publisher was coming from, clearly we had some nervousness on behalf of Channel Seven, they felt it was necessary to launch some court proceedings against me personally,” said Boland.

“I think from Seven’s perspective they wanted to see what was in the book before it was published and from the publisher’s perspective, they’ve never released a book before it was released to anyone else so why would they do it now?

“There was a sense of integrity from Melbour University Press that it would set a dangerous precedent and as a result they were loathe to hand it over. That was really a publisher decision, I don’t control the manuscript once it’s written, it was up to them.

“I can kind of understand where they were both coming from, but in the end I think the publisher decided to just rush it out to undermine any future court action.”

Despite the early release, the book wasn’t originally due out until November 1 and will now be available in bookstores by Friday.

Boland said he was “glad” it was out. “Once people at Channel Seven read it, it will ease some of their concerns,” he said.

“It’s an honest account of things that went on but I never wrote the book with the intention of settling scores. I have immense respect for people who still work there and in fact my closest friends work at Seven. There was no reason for me to open fire at Seven, if anything I needed to build some bridges.

“The book is really a very personal look at not just my time at Seven but also my time at Ten and growing up and how all of those things were. How my personal life crossed over into my professional life, the impact of producing a breakfast show can have on your own life and the impact it had on my own mental life.

“I talk about everything, from my personal relationships, my sexuality, my relationship with staff and my bosses. I can’t think of too many no-go areas. I have a tendency to over-share, so I thought why should I stop now?

“Perhaps if anything we will learn a little bit too much about me. But that’s ok, it was important to tell the whole story to put things in context.”

Boland admitted he was “disappointed” with Seven’s court action but said it was “understandable”.

“They have a very valuable product and they want to protect that. I think they will be a lot more relaxed when they read the book and understand in many ways this book is about celebrating television and not in any way undermining what they do very well.”

Studio 10

Studio 10

Boland announced his departure from Seven, where he had been since 2000, starting as a line producer, in February 2013 and was shortly after announced to be joining Ten as the director of morning television, creating the short lived Wake Up breakfast show and morning show Studio 10. He quit Channel Ten in January this year, citing ill health.

On whether Ten had similar nerves or fears to Seven, Boland said: “Certainly not to the extent of Channel Seven, I know there are nerves at Channel Ten but they haven’t gone to the lengths of Seven.”

The former morning television guru said the chapters of his book are divided into significant moments, many of which viewers of the programs he was behind would be familiar with.

“Be they how we covered Beaconsfield, the Justin Bieber show, or how we launched Wake Up and so on. There’s nothing in the book that people at Seven will say ‘oh God, why has he said that’, it’ll be more a case of ‘oh yeah that’s his perspective of why that happened, ok’,” he said.

“If anyone gets heavily criticised in the book, it’s me. One of the beauty’s of being able to write a book is you can sit down reflect, take time out and look back at things you have done right and things you have done not so right.

“I worked out that I’d done more things not so right than I’d done right and that in itself was quite a cathartic experience for me. Once they see that and see the honesty within the book and accept that there’s no agenda in the book particularly towards them, I think they’ll be a lot more relaxed.”

Boland doesn’t expect everyone to agree with his take on events, and is upfront that it’s his memory and not a definitive account of what happened during his time at either Seven or Ten.

“Everyone has a perspective on things that happened, this is clearly my own version of history,” he said.

“There will be many people who won’t agree with certain things that I talk about in the book and that’s ok. This is not a definitive account of things that went on, this is simply how I saw these things. Clearly I’m able to be more honest now then when I had either a Channel Seven or Ten business card, I’m speaking personally now not professionally.”

Adam-Boland-2 copy“I also talk about how I burnt relationships, particularly at Channel Seven, and perhaps this goes to explain why they’re particularly nervous about the book,” he added.

“There were a lot of people there who were long term friends who were hurt when I went to Channel Ten to set up shows that rival ones I helped build at Seven. Not just that, interviews I gave at that time to outlets such as Mumbrella and there were things in those interviews that hurt many people at Channel Seven and I regret many of the things I said across that time. I look back at some of those things and try to examine why I said them.

“The book certainly draws a line on my media career, I certainly will never return to commercial television.

“I don’t use this book to try to justify certain things I did or to try to get back into people’s good books. It’s more about being honest about things that have happened and people will reach their own conclusions, some people will agree, some will disagree. More than that, it was important to me to do because I was able to step back and say that’s how it unfolded because when you live it you don’t really know it and it’s only when you take time out, it was only when I left television I had time.”

But the memoir isn’t about shifting the blame onto others, Boland says.

“Again, I’m responsible for my own decisions and I was always in positions where I could make decisions and I had a lot of trust was placed in me by management both at Seven and Ten. Really, the only person who can take the blame for things that went right or wrong across that period is me,” he said.

“It’s a chance for me to give myself a report card to some extent and you’ll see as you read the book I’m fairly honest and frank about some of those things and I don’t set out to defend myself against waves of criticism, if anything I try to understand why those criticisms were made.”

Boland isn’t afraid of critiquing his own performance at either Seven or Ten, largely blaming himself for mistakes made at Ten’s Wake Up which was axed in May, but believes there is space for a third breakfast program.

“It just needs to work out what it is,” he said. “One of the problems we had when we launched Wake Up is, and I take the blame for this, I don’t think we knew exactly what we were doing in terms of what we were. We weren’t entirely sure if we were a traditional breakfast show in the sense of a Sunrise and the Today Show or were we an FM radio show. And that sense of lack of definition came across on air.

“It’s a very competitive time slot you’ve still got Sunrise and Today going hammer and tong. It is possible but for it to happen the network must give the show time and clearly a breakfast show will only work if the rest of the network is kicking goals. I do think another breakfast show would work, it simply needs to have a point of difference from the other two and it needs to be given a chance to breath.

“Particularly with the demographics of television ageing, it’s where do you go? What is that ground? I think ten years ago it would have been simpler to launch a breakfast show aimed at a younger audience, in the vein of Big Breakfast out of the UK.It’s more difficult now, and getting that position right is never a simple process. Competition is always good and I think it would be nice to see someone enter that space, and I’m sure it will be Ten, but not anytime soon.”

Boland expects the book to highlight the process of television more than aspects of either channel.

“People will see the process of television and how intense it is and how the rivalry is intense and how sometimes we actually forget what’s important,” he said.

“That’s one of my biggest lessons in that, there was a great personal toll. I surrendered many of my friendships and I know I off-sided many members of my family because of a single-minded devotion to my shows and when you step out of television, which I have, I look back and think why, was it worth it? And the answer is no, clearly not.

“It’s a somewhat small world, the media industry, and you get very much caught up in it and it’s very exciting at the time but when you step out of it you realise there’s so much more to life and I think it’s sad I took so long to discover that. I hope people who read this book, particularly those who work in the media, can perhaps see if there are any parallels with their own lives.”

Mental health is a topic close to Boland’s heart as he suffers from bipolar disorder, and he is currently a regular speaker on the topic as well as studying Asian politics.

“I’ve been discussing mental health as part of Mental Health week this week and it got me thinking about whether people in the media spend enough time considering their own mental health. We operate at such speed that we sometimes don’t take time out to just say ‘are we ok?’

“I know many people, particularly in television, who have succumbed to mental illness I think because they weren’t able to balance personal and professional. It can swallow up your life. I try to detail that and clearly I use myself as the example,” he said.

“I hope people, particularly in the media, walk away and say there are some valuable lessons in there about things that are more important than what we do each day. That said, I also try to make the case that television should be used for a lot more than making money.

“The book will show the pressures placed on producers and sometimes we don’t make decisions for the right reasons, be they commercial interests or whatever. They’re the everyday balances that we face, we try to keep up with be they social media changes or whatever and we do lose perspective or I did, I lost perspective on many things.

“Being able to sit down and write a book has been a very useful experience for me. It wasn’t what I was going to do, I had no intention of writing a book, I said no when the publisher first asked. I’m glad I said yes in the end, it’s been very cathartic.”

Miranda Ward


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