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Presenters, Please Tone It Down

14/08/2014 16:50 | Updated 22 May 2015

Presenters, please tone it down

Hand on hip, the TV 'babe' gyrated to the beat. Her lipgloss shimmered as she struck one final, pert pose before introducing the next show.

It might sound like a scene from a late-night satellite channel, but this exhibition took place at 6.45am on kids' breakfast TV. Still half asleep and wrestling with a tiny pajama top, I noticed my saucer-eyed children, hypnotised by the gratuitous display.

For a bit of variety, I'd flicked over from our usual CBeebies to Channel Five's Milkshake. What I hadn't bargained on was the kind of hip thrusting, shoulder shimmying, figure flaunting performance more akin to a chat-line advert.

When Peppa Pig ended I couldn't have reached for the remote control fast enough. Greeted by the natural, appropriate smiles of Katie and Alex, I was finally reassured. You wouldn't catch them winking suggestively, I thought.

I'd forgotten all about it until I visited a friend's house a few days later. As the nostalgic Blue Peter theme tune played out, I happily left the room where my children were glued to the screen.

Expecting to find a wholesome Sarah Greene equivalent sticky taping cardboard, I was later confronted by presenter Helen Skelton on the West End stage, squeezed into a low-cut, bottom-skimming PVC dress (complete with Blue Peter badge, naturally). So now even the Beeb's at it, I thought, sadly.

I'll admit, times have changed since the demure days of Janet Ellis' departure from kids' TV - allegedly due to being pregnant and unmarried. Prim and proper doesn't quite cut it in the age of digital technicolour.

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But there's a big difference between staying on trend and overstepping the boundaries of appropriateness - and certain fake-tanned, leather-clad kids' TV presenters totally miss the mark.

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Intrigued, I did some online research. The official Blue Peter home page boasts a photograph of Helen Skelton in a black see-through blouse, low-cut vest clearly visible beneath.

And a quick YouTube search for Milkshake brought up dozens of clips posted by 'BabesOfBritain', featuring titles including 'Very tight top'. I'm guessing whoever goes by the name of BabesOfBritain isn't sharing those clips to demonstrate Amy and Jen's presenting skills.

Worse still, fashion stylist Electra Formosa's Disney Channel show Get the Look teaches kids how to wear black lace cardigans to channel 'military', and 'glam up' their gloves to achieve rock-chick status. Too much, too soon, if you ask me.

Troubled, I took to Twitter. What sets Milkshake apart from other kids' shows, one mum explained, is 'about two inches of make-up', whilst another dad poured scorn on certain presenters' 'inappropriate cropped tops'.

Closer to home, I asked my husband for his views. 'Definitely sexual', was his analysis of one particular female presenter. As his eyes glazed over, I reminded him I was enquiring about the appropriateness of her image for young children, not adult males. Still, his reaction told me everything I needed to know.

Parenting blogger and father of two, John Adams believes children's presenters generally come across well on the telly. His issue is with their off-screen antics. "They seem to forget they're being paid to be positive role models to children in addition to being presenters," he said.

"I think we've probably all seen a lot more of Konnie Huq and Sarah-Jayne Honeywell's flesh than is necessary."

He was at pains to point out that it wasn't just the women who were to blame. "Let's not forget that Richard Bacon and John Lesley were great on-screen but had very public issues because of their off screen lives," he added.

I'd go one further, John, and argue that some of the preening male presenters on screen these days are almost as inappropriate as their female counterparts. A certain bleach-haired, fake-tanned boy band wannabe springs to mind.

Mum of two Lucy disagrees. In her view, there's nothing wrong with a bit of sparkle on screen to capture kids' imagination. "These presenters aren't trying to be 'sexy', they're working hard to make the shows exciting," she said.

"Yes, they might swing their hips or wear sparkly tops, but what's wrong with that? It's just a bit of fun, and beats sitting motionless with a book and expecting kids to concentrate."

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I beg to differ, Lucy. It's a sad day when presenters have to resort to provocative posing and cheap bling to hold a child's attention. Jackanory might be an outdated concept, but at least it fostered a love of reading - without the need for gimmicks.

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Don't get me wrong. Kids' TV provides plenty of positive role models. The entire CBeebies crew, for example, shun nightclub wear and dubious posturing. Ever-prolific Justin Fletcher holds almost god-like status in our house.

But the Government's recent Bailey Report urged broadcasters to stop the 'sexualised imagery that has become 'wallpaper' to children's lives'. If you ask me, they should start with the TV hosts who hold such power to influence young minds.

Presenters, take my advice - ditch the lipgloss, pick up a story book, and we might finally be getting somewhere.

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