BBC woman presenter wins age discrimination case

11th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Former BBC television presenter Miriam O'Reilly on Wednesday won an age discrimination case against the corporation after losing her job on a rural affairs programme, her lawyers said Tuesday.

The 53-year-old claimed she was unfairly dropped from the BBC1 programme "Countryfile" because of her age when it moved to a primetime Sunday evening slot in April 2009.

O'Reilly took the BBC to an employment tribunal, arguing that she was one of four women presenters aged over 40 to be axed from the programme, while its veteran male host, John Craven, who was 68 at the time, kept his job.

The tribunal upheld her claim for age discrimination and victimisation, but not sex discrimination.

The panel heard allegations that O'Reilly was warned by a director to be "careful with those wrinkles when high definition comes in", and asked whether it was "time for Botox".

"The primary claim which she has won is the age discrimination claim that on the grounds of her age she was discriminated against and was not given a role in the primetime 'Countryfile'," said a spokeswoman for her solicitors, Leigh, Day and Co.

"Following on from that, she was, the tribunal has decided, victimised on the basis of her age discrimination claim."

O'Reilly said she was "delighted" with what she described as "a landmark decision".

"I just felt it was the right decision and it was worth what I have been through in the last 14 months," she added.

"Ageism is endemic, it is part of the culture of broadcasting," she added.

"I felt that after 20 years with the BBC I deserve to be judged on my work not my appearance.

"I don't think wrinkles are offensive, we all grow old."

When "Countryfile" moved to the primetime slot, it relaunched with Julia Bradbury, then 38.

O'Reilly told the tribunal that three fellow women presenters on the show, aged between 42 and 45, were also axed.

She insisted she took legal action because she wanted to continue to work for the BBC, adding she had been told to expect a call later Tuesday from a senior executive at the corporation.

The BBC said it accepted the findings of the tribunal and had apologised to O'Reilly, adding that it would like to "discuss working with her again in the future".

"The BBC is committed to fair selection in every aspect of our work and we clearly did not get it right in this case," it said in a statement.

© 2011 AFP

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