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Breakfast host ready for a lie-in

Channel 7 Sunrise host Melissa Doyle is saying goodbye to the breakfast team and taking on a new challenge in prime time. She recorded a teary farewell on Thursday.

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When I saw Melissa Doyle break down on national TV declaring that she had “decided” to leave Sunrise, her home for the past 14 years, I didn’t buy it. This was her family, after all. You don’t walk out on family that easily. 

The tears were genuine (Mel isn’t afraid to get emotional on TV, usually for someone else’s anguish). But they didn’t look like tears of sentimentality to me - a woman fed up with the 3am alarm, "desperate to wake up with her children", as she claimed, ready in any way to skip off that set. It had all the hallmarks of a dead set boning. 

Axed: Melissa Doyle, pictured with co-host David Koch.

Axed: Melissa Doyle, pictured with co-host David Koch. Photo: Channel Seven

The clues were in the language, an incontestable give-away that the game is up when you start hearing words like "incredible opportunity” or being “thrilled”, “excited”, “honoured” or “I can’t wait”. Lifted straight from the dictionary of euphemisms for axed TV presenters trying to appear like it is all their doing, right up there with "spend more time with my family" and "special projects". 

But the other reason I was suspicious is because I know Mel, and I know how much she loved her job. She lived and breathed Sunrise, and not just when the cameras were rolling. That show sustained her. It was her life. Like family. I first met Mel at university where she stood out, even back then, not just for her sweetness (as she still does now) but beneath that, a fierce determination to make it. Her dream was to present her own TV show. I can’t imagine she would give that up, not at just 43, for the 4.30pm news and a rumoured new show on the digital channel.

Mel is sticking to her story that she is the commander of her universe and is looking forward to her “new opportunity”, taking to Facebook to quieten the “conspiracy theorists” who are suggesting otherwise. Like me.

Melissa Doyle broke down in tears when she announced she was leaving Sunrise.

Melissa Doyle broke down in tears when she announced she was leaving Sunrise. Photo: Screen grab, Channel Seven

Perhaps it’s because we can’t bear to see her go, revered as she is by the nation; this warm-hearted, genial soul of Brekkie Central, who seems so much like one of us. But still, the perception persists that 'Our Mel' has been treated badly, yet another woman on TV given the cold shoulder when their male cohorts roll on forever.

It’s not just Mel. It’s Kerri-Anne, Tracey Spicer, Jessica Rowe, Kellie Connolly, Helen Kapalos, Deborah Knight - talented and experienced women shunted off into the night because their time was deemed to be up. This is the reality for women in TV, and those of us who work in the industry just accept that we will one day meet our inevitable demise, taking the fall for declining ratings or a change of taste. The women are dispensable, as if they are the problem, a revolving door to the consistent, credible male host. I tread carefully here because I am one of Kochie’s Angels - a regular guest on Sunrise where we banter with David Koch about issues of the day - and I like him. And I think he’s great talent. But, if Sunrise is nervous about ratings and threatened by an imminent new offering from Adam Boland (their creator) on Ten, then why Mel and not Kochie? Why not ever the blokes?

It is because the ideal TV woman keeps to herself. She’s smart and can hold her own, but she’s not opinionated. She is non-controversial, non-confrontational and safe. She smiles warmly alongside her TV spouse and laughs at his jokes, offending no one and leaving the hard questions to him. And therefore she’s completely replaceable. She’s in her 30s or early 40s, has kids (preferably, so the mums in the audience can relate) and is pretty without being knockout glamorous. She is wholesome, pleasant and approachable. And when she goes, she goes without fuss. Good girls are expected to leave quietly and graciously, as Mel is doing now. Make out it was your doing. You would, wouldn’t you? If you want to keep your career. You’re lucky. You’ve had a good run. Time to give someone else a go.

I thought we were done with all that. When TV executives decide to be brazen and stick with a woman who doesn’t fit that mould, it works. Seasoned, mature women with life experience and attitude who are not afraid to say how they feel and be the leading lady - like Lisa Wilkinson and the newly appointed host of Ten’s new morning program, 71-year-old Ita Buttrose. Feisty, spirited, gutsy women who have seen a thing or two and are brave enough to ruffle feathers. Haven’t we the audience proven that this is what we want more of? 

If Mel has indeed chosen to defect to the afternoon news, then best wishes to her. She certainly deserves those sleep-ins. But let’s hope it’s not too long before she craves “new challenges”. We are not done with her yet. 


Before I wrote this piece, I emailed Melissa, who is overseas on holiday, to check with her what the real story is re her departure from Sunrise. She has just got back to me. Here’s what she had to say: 
“... I've read the press and it's garbage!  Wow, must everyone assume there's always more to a story? The decision was mine! I was given an opportunity to cover the big stories for the network and there is nothing I love doing more. ...As I said on air - I was happy and fulfilled hosting Sunrise but offered a new opportunity and chose to run with it. Getting up at 3am for so long is bloody hard! 
I actually think the TV landscape has changed a lot during our tenure - age is not the barrier it once was and nor is having a family. As any working woman will tell you, no matter her job, it can be bloody hard. But I have had nothing but  support from Seven and our viewers. 
It's such a shame rumour mongers are trying to make more of this. You've been in the studio - you know Kochie and I are real friends, you know us girls support each other and you also know how tiring those early mornings can be.”  

Jacinta Tynan is a News Presenter with Sky News and an author. Twitter @jacintatynan