TV presenter Bill Turnbull shrugs off BBC Breakfast sofa sexism controversy

Presenter Bill Turnbull has dismissed the row over where his replacement Dan Walker sits on the BBC Breakfast sofa.

The TV show was plunged into controversy over the seating arrangement of Louise Minchin, 48, and Dan, 39, on the programme.

The BBC was embroiled in a sexism row when Dan was placed "camera left" despite having less experience than Louise, the show's senior female presenter.

Bill Turnbull and Louise Minchin (BBC)
Bill Turnbull and Louise Minchin on BBC Breakfast (BBC News/PA)

He was placed in the spot on the famous red sofa which had been occupied by his predecessor Bill, 60.

Former breakfast show anchor Bill, who left the programme in February saying that he wanted to spend time looking after his bees, said his position on the sofa had nothing to do with seniority.

Bill said "it had never, ever crossed my mind" that he had been put "camera left" during his 15 years on the show because of his greater experience.

"When I was on News 24, the news channel, I seem to remember ... at one point Sian Williams and I did swap sides and people didn't like it," he told the Press Association.

Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams (Yui Mok/PA)
Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams (Yui Mok/PA)

"They like to see presenters sitting in a certain way.

"It's nonsense. The (notion that the) man is sitting on the left because it's a historical, sexist preference I just find bizarre.

"It never crossed my mind (that it was about seniority), not once.

"And you know what, it never crossed anybody else's mind and I've worked with enough confident and able female presenters who would certainly have stuck up for themselves or spoken out if they thought it was an issue as well."

Dan Walker (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Dan Walker (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Bill said he had adjusted to life after BBC Breakfast.

"I did wake up early for a while but gradually the body relaxed, which was a relief," he said.

"I miss the programme and I've missed presenting it this year because of all the extraordinary events. But I don't miss the alarm clock going off at half past three."

Despite saying that he wanted to spend more time with his bees when he left BBC Breakfast, the Think Tank host said he had not managed to spend as much time on his hobby as he wanted.

Picture from the Twitter feed of BBCBreakfast of presenter Bill Turnbull who is leaving the show after 15 years, sitting in the studio with co-presenter Louise Minchin.
Picture from the Twitter feed of BBC Breakfast of presenter Bill Turnbull leaving the show after 15 years, sitting in the studio with co-presenter Louise Minchin (BBC/PA)

"The bees are okay," he said. "Everybody's very concerned about them but it's slightly embarrassing because I moved to Suffolk seven months ago now, and all the time we were living in the Peak District the bees were on a farm in Buckinghamshire perfectly happy, and I haven't had time to go and get them.

"I did go and see them at one point thinking 'I've got to really sort this out' and discovered that instead of having one live colony I had two. So, that made the whole operation more complicated and I've had to put it off to the spring."

Bill has recently released an album of classical music that he has compiled, entitled Bill Turnbull's Relaxing Classics.

The album, released by Sony Classical, includes Barber's Adagio For Strings, Faure's Pavane, Liszt's Liebestraum, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, Pachelbel's Canon and Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending.

Bill, who presents a music show on Classic FM, said: "I thought it would be nice, at this time of year especially, to compile a collection of music which I find very relaxing and which, I hope, other people will enjoy as well.

"It's such a frenetic time of year and given global events recently you need to have something you can chill to. And this works for me."

The presenter said that he had taken up a new hobby recently - playing the ukulele.

"I've been playing it fairly conscientiously for at least a few weeks ... That's the new year's resolution, more ukulele."

Bill Turnbull has taken up the ukulele (Ian West/PA)
Bill Turnbull has taken up the ukulele (Ian West/PA)

He said he had previously been offered a spot on spin-off show The Great Sport Relief Bake-Off and regretted turning it down.

"I did get asked to do celebrity Bake-Off and very swiftly I said 'can't bake, won't bake'. I hadn't realised I could have played the role of being the guy who's pretty hopeless," he said.

"If I got asked again I'd have a go at that, in an entirely non-competitive way. I got intimidated by looking at what other people have managed to do.

"I've baked a cake once and used to make bread almost every day for our kids, but I wouldn't know how to make icing. But (it's on Channel 4 now) so that's not going to happen!"

Bill, who took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2005, backed Ed Balls on the BBC1 show, saying that the former shadow chancellor should not walk away.

Ed Balls.
Ed Balls (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

"Ed Balls doing Gangnam Style was just the most extraordinary thing I've ever seen on the dancefloor," he said.

"It just had me almost in tears of laughter. He was just brilliant. It's fun. It's not meant to be a professional dance competition. It's more like a pantomime sometimes.

"You have your good dancers but you've got have to light relief as well. If someone is dancing as originally as that ... genius ... so long as they keep coming up with entertaining routines, that's fine."

:: Bill Turnbull's Relaxing Classics is released on Sony Classical.

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