52-year-old Miriam O’Reilly has commenced legal proceedings against the BBC, claiming the corporation is ‘endemically sexist and ageist.’
Ms. O’Reilly spent 25 years working at the BBC and used to present the BBC1 show ‘Countryfile.’ She was axed from the programme in November 2008, along with three other over-40 female presenters – Juliet Morris, Charlotte Smith and Michaela Strachan – as part of a revamp.
Announcing her decision to sue the BBC, Ms. O’Reilly told The Times:
“Initially they didn’t tell me who was being dropped from the programme. I had no idea. It was only later that I found out it was the four women.
“The reason given was that they wanted to refresh Countryfile. [But] it seems this refreshing of the programme applies only to women.
“I think it’s an insult to the viewers for women like us to be dropped. The only reason is because we’ve got older. I can’t walk away and leave it because I believe what’s happened to me is wrong.”
In response, a BBC spokesman said: “Any suggestion that the presenters of Countryfile were replaced on the grounds of age is absolute nonsense. Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury were chosen based on their proven successful track record as presenters and their extensive rural knowledge and keen interest in countryside issues.”
As for the charge of sexism: “Kirsty Wark, Maxine Mawhinney and Martha Kearney regularly feature on BBC television and radio shows as well as presenters including Gloria Hunniford, Jennie Bond, Angela Rippon and Annie Nightingale.”
** Information and advice about sex discrimination law and age discrimination in the workplace **
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