Miriam O’Rielly wins ageism case
The BBC presenter Miriam O’Reilly aged 53, well known to host the Countryfile show has won her battle at the Employment Tribunal after she claimed that the BBC had discriminated against her for being “too old”. She succeeded at the tribunal on the grounds of ageism and victimisation but her claim on the grounds on sexism was not upheld.
The presenter first made a claim for age discrimination when she was dropped from the Country file show which was moved to a prime time slot on a Sunday evening in 2009.
At this point the BBC denied the allegations and claimed that she was removed because of lack of experience on peak time television shows. Along with her, three other female Country file hosts aged 40 or over were dropped and replaced by former watchdog host Julia Bradbury and Matt Baker.
The tribunal was told that when Ms O’Rielly was told about her removal from the show she was “devastated”. Amongst other things, she alleged that “she was told to be careful with those wrinkles when high definition comes in” and asked whether it was “time for Botox.”
The law decrees that employers must not discriminate against anyone on the grounds of age and no exceptions can be made.
The Tribunal held that:
“If the claimant had been 10 to 15 years younger, she would have been given proper consideration to remain a presenter of Countryfile. The discrimination was not justified. The wish to appeal to a primetime audience, including younger viewer’s, is a legitimate aim, however, we do not accept that it has been established that using younger presenters is required to appeal to such an audience.”
BBC creative director Alan Yentob has promised the corporation will undertake a complete review of the way senior executives employ older female talent. Furthermore, a spokesman from the BBC has said that they “accept the findings of the Tribunal and would like to apologies to Miriam.”
The amount of compensation to be awarded will be decided at another hearing in the next few weeks. A figure of around £100,000 including lost earnings and an amount for injury to feelings is likely to be awarded.
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