The hidden sexism in where breakfast TV presenters sit

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  • Have you ever noticed this before?

    Have you ever paid attention to where your morning TV hosts are sitting on the sofa? A furore over the positioning of new BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker has shown it’s more important than you might realise.

    Despite being new to the show, Dan Walker was seated in the ‘power position’ on the left hand side of the sofa – leaving his co-host Louise Minchin on the right, despite the veteran presenter having ten years more experience than him.

    In fact, on nearly all breakfast TV sofas the male presenter sits on the left hand side of the sofa. This is the ‘dominant’ spot, owing to the fact that when we watch television our eyes naturally pan left to right, as we would read a page, automatically giving the man the highest position of authority.

    Once you realise this it’s hard not to notice.

    Here’s BBC Breakfast with Dan on the left and Louise on the right…

    Dan Walker and Louise Minchin

    Dan Walker and Louise Minchin

    Here’s Holly and Phil on This Morning. Phil on the left and Holly on the right…

    Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby

    Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby

    Here’s Good Morning Britain, where the positions were even stuck to when two mini-me presenters were invited into the studio. Piers on the left, Susanna on the right.

    Piers Morgan and Susanna-Reid Good morning

    Good Morning Britain

    No surprises things aren’t much better in the USA. Here’s morning show America’s Newsroom, Bill Hemmer on the left, Martha Maccallum on the right…

    Bill Hemmer and Martha Maccallum picture

    Bill Hemmer and Martha Maccallum

    Ex-Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly – who was famously sacked from the show for what she claimed were purely ageist reasons – has spoken about this ‘power positioning’ as yet another symptom of sexism in TV. ‘It’s just deep-rooted misogyny in newsrooms where editors think a man somehow has more authority’ she said, ‘and of course the people who make these decisions tend to be men themselves.’

    ‘I’ve worked on enough news and current affairs programmes to know that men are seen by editors as having the ‘gravitas’ to lead a show. Sadly women on breakfast news programmes, particularly, have the role of the bit of fluff by his side. They are there to smile, laugh, giggle or tease – and to show legs and cleavage.’

    This article published in The Independent also pointed out that female morning TV presenters still aren’t allowed to wear trousers. ‘While most grown-up women are allowed to wear a suit, or dark, easy colours like black, grey or navy to work, these are a no-no for breakfast presenters. Trousers, which have been seen on women for at least 100 years now, are outright banned.’ Leaving the rather old fashioned blowdry-heels-skirt combo. Hello 1957.

    Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid

    Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid

    How depressing. We might just start listening to the radio in the morning now.

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