TV presenter Miriam O’Reilly has won a case for age discrimination against the BBC after she was dropped from rural affairs show “Countryfile.” However, a tribunal dismissed the 53-year-old’s claim for sex discrimination.
O’Reilly will receive an undisclosed sum in damages.
She said, “Words cannot describe how happy I feel. It’s going to have huge implications for all broadcasters.”
O’Reilly was one of four femme presenters in their 40s or 50s culled from the long-running show in April 2009 when then BBC1 controller Jay Hunt moved “Countryfile” to a more prominent slot.
The anchor claimed she was hounded from the BBC after she was blamed for hostile press stories, which accused the pubcaster of ditching middle-aged femme presenters and celebs in several shows, including “Strictly Come Dancing.”
Apologizing to O’Reilly, the BBC said, “The BBC is committed to fair selection, and we clearly did not get it right in this case.””We will ensure that senior editorial executives responsible for these kind of decisions in the BBC undergo additional training in the selection and appointment of presenters, and produce new guidance on fair selection for presenter appointments.”
The verdict is embarrassing for Hunt, who on Monday started her job as chief creative officer at Channel 4 and whose evidence provided the key part of the Beeb’s defense in the case.
She had denied that O’Reilly was axed for any reason other than that she was unknown to primetime audiences.
During the hearing, Hunt said: “I am a 43-year-old woman. I have had my own difficulties surviving this industry.”
It remains to be seen if O’Reilly’s victory will have any longterm impact. Critics maintain that the smallscreen is increasingly dominated by women under 30 and men over 50 years old.