Sexism On The Sofa: Why It Matters Where A TV Presenter Sits

To the left, to the left

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Which side of the frame a TV presenter occupies apparently clues the viewer into their status.

Mixed gender presenting couples have come under scrutiny recently, as it is revealed that the man is usually on the left (to the viewer) - the position of power - while the woman sits on the right.

Good morning! @mrdanwalker and @louiseminchin are your presenters today @BBCOne #bbcbreakfast

A photo posted by @bbcbreakfast on

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The discussion was sparked by the seating arrangement of Louise Minchin and Dan Walker, above, on BBC Breakfast. In broadcasting, allegedly the senior host occupies the left-hand side of the screen. When Minchin, as she was until recently, was paired with Bill Turnball, she was on the right and he was on the left. This made sense, as Bill was the one with more experience.

However, earlier this year, new host Walker took over from Turnball, and he is a veritable minnow to Minchin's pike. At 38-years-old he has relatively little broadcasting experience. Minchin is 47-years-old, has served on the show for a decade and has previously presented, among others, The One ShowThe Today Programme and BBC News.

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If we buy into this idea of sofa-status, Minchin should have been shifted along to the left. It is Walker, however, who's been sat there - the BBC did a few test recordings with Louise on the left, but decided the format ‘didn’t work’ and insisted that she remain on the right hand side of the screen.

Louise is understood to have complained about the decision, while viewers were similarly disappointed to see Dan on the left. Adele Clarke, from Cheshire, told the Radio Times that she was 'annoyed' to see 'new boy' Walker seated on the left while Louise remained ‘number two’.

Miriam O’Reilly, the former Countryfile presenter who won an ageism case against the BBC, said: ‘It’s just deep-rooted misogyny in newsrooms where editors think a man somehow has more authority… And of course the people who make these decisions tend to be men themselves.’

While a BBC spokesman has denied any seniority in who sits where, in prominent TV duos, the man does often appear to be on the left, as is the case with This Morning's Holly and Phil.

And Ben Shepherd and Kate Garraway.

And, of course, The One Show's Alex Jones and Matt Baker.

Images: Instagram 

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