Hilary Barry and Jack Tame would break with broadcasting tradition
OPINION: Imagine it. Those rippling orange landscapes, footage from the day's headlines, and then we cut to the couch.
Seated, relaxed, are Hilary Barry and Jack Tame. They are smiling matched, blinding white smiles. "Kia ora, New Zealand," Barry says, "and welcome to Breakfast".
If the rumours are true, this is going to become our new weekday morning reality. Hilary Barry will team up with Jack Tame to host TVNZ's morning current affairs show, Breakfast.
It would be an exciting development; In New Zealand's current broadcasting environment, sitting the 46-year-old Barry on the Breakfast couch beside 29-year-old Tame is kind of revolutionary.
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And the revolution might actually be televised. Current host Rawdon Christie, reportedly, has told colleagues he's worried he's about to lose his hosting gig. Jack Tame's been flown back from New York, ostensibly to take over the Seven Sharp reins while Mike Hosking is on holiday. Hilary Barry's already on an endless holiday.
Teaming the last two up shouldn't even be worth remarking on. That a potential female current affairs show host is older than her male counterpart - unremarkable. But actually, it's exceptional. And it gives us an opportunity to talk about some major inconsistencies in the way we treat our male and female broadcasters.
If Barry and Tame really are set to replace Rawdon Christie and Nadine Chalmer-Ross on the Breakfast, it'll be a break with the great New Zealand broadcasting tradition of pairing an older man with a younger female co-host.
All our major current affairs shows do it. Consider ONE, rumoured to be Barry's new home: Christie has 18 years on Chalmers-Ross. For the evening news bulletin, Simon Dallow is 52 to his co-anchor Wendy Petrie's 44. Then, at 7pm, we go to Mike Hosking, 51, sitting beside Toni Street, 32.
Things aren't any better at Barry's former employers, MediaWorks. In the mornings, 56-year-old Paul Henry needles Ingrid Hipkiss, 13 years his junior. Newshub veteran Mike McRoberts is 49 to Sam Hayes' 32. At 42, Duncan Garner is eleven years older than Story co-host Heather Du-Plessis Allan.
This is a symptom of a wider social ill: A woman's worth is bound up with how young and good-looking she is, while a bloke can look like the back end of a bus as long as he's got half a brain and can spin a good yarn.
Women on television probably run up against this prejudice more often than most.
Consider the recent "eyesore" controversy around Jenny-May Clarkson being pregnant on air, or comments read aloud by Chalmers-Ross that said she needed to get her breasts lifted "so they are perky and not around your belly".
You'd never get somebody telling Paul Henry he needs to wear a toupee if he's to do his job. They don't tell the silvering Mike McRoberts to dye his hair. When people attack Mike Hosking it's his opinions, not his lounge-lizard looks, that they go for.
A woman in broadcasting can be clever, funny, and entertaining, but if she's not attractive as well she'll never get a job. That gives women in current affairs TV an expiry date. When they get too old to be conventionally attractive, they're foisted off to do a gardening show, or to go on the radio, or "concentrate on their families".
The one notable exception to this is Judy Bailey, who was 52 when TVNZ gave her the boot. It's a testament to Bailey's talents (and, her looks) that she was kept on so long. But again, note we wouldn't be remarking at all on a 52-year-old male newsreader. It's basically their median age.
In a way it's a testament to Barry's prowess that she's in this position. She is an incredible broadcaster - so good TVNZ are willing to break with their tried-and-true hosting formula for her.
But why can't Barry go it on her own? I'm sure Jack Tame would be awesome on the Breakfast couch, but a broadcaster of Barry's standing deserves her own show. We've had Holmes, Campbell Live, Paul Henry (all hosted by men) - why not Breakfast with Hilary Barry?
Oh, that's right: it's because she's a woman.