ABC news breakfast
(Image: ABC News Breakfast)

Hair colour, gender and breakfast hosts — important considerations for TV networks, and apparently the focus of oblique attacks by critics of the struggling Today.

The concentration here is on Today hosts Georgie Gardner and Deb Knight, who have fronted the declining show following the departure of Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic. Meanwhile, ABC News Breakfast, one of Today’s rivals, also had two women as hosts last Friday and today: Virginia Trioli and Mary Gearin (or three including stand-in sports host Georgie Tunny). Usual host Michael Rowland had time off to prepare for his stand-in gig hosting Insiders last Sunday and has had this week off. Trioli and Gearin are intelligent, have a sense of humour and work well together on screen; the program has sailed on easily without Rowland.

So the question is, if attacks relating to Today’s poor ratings are due to its hosts being women, why aren’t we seeing the same decline at the ABC?

While it is easy to point out that there is very little off-camera gossip about any News Breakfast hosts, those who mutter that misogyny is the root of criticism of Today are wrong. It’s the quality of content, the program’s look and viewers’ perception of the hosts on both programs that shape audience impressions every day. Today’s problems remain based on audience unhappiness about the way Wilkinson was treated before she bolted for a hosting spot on Ten’s The Project, and the on- and off-camera decline of Karl Stefanovic.

Knight and Gardner are very different hosts to Wilkinson and Stefanovic. There are small signs the audience loss is stabilising for Today but it will take months — the rest of 2019 at least — for the program to re-base itself in the minds of viewers.

In the meantime, any panicking or an overreaction from Nine would be a bad look. The welcome reception for dual female hosts on News Breakfast is a big positive and the ABC should continue with it once Trioli’s future has been decided.

Peter Fray

Don't just sign a petition, buy a subscription.

You’ve probably read about Kevin Rudd’s petition for a royal commission into media diversity. He’s very angry about Rupert Murdoch’s media dominance – and rightfully so. We invite you to sign it yourself. But royal commissions take time. There is another way to stand up to Murdoch.

Support truly independent, Australian-owned journalism – and do it today. Subscribe to Crikey and get your first 12 weeks for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

Support us today