A BBC1 presenter for the rural affairs programme Countryfile was told she was “not young and pretty enough” to pass the “primetime test”, an employment tribunal in London heard yesterday.
Appearing as a witness in the sex and age discrimination case brought by co-presenter Miriam O’Reilly, 46-year old Charlotte Smith was only 44 when the comments were made by Sam Bailey, an assistant producer and director on the show.
Ms Smith presented Countryfile for ten years before being axed in 2008, along with three other female presenters — including O’Reilly (51), Michaela Strachan (42) and Juliet Morris (45) — as part of a widely publicised ‘revamp’ of the show.
She says Mr Bailey’s comments came in response to a light-hearted suggestion that she could fill in on the show when it found itself short of presenters last year.
“I was told by a member of the team that I would not be able to pass the primetime test because I was not young or pretty,” said Smith.
On the first day of the hearing last week, Ms O’Reilly told the tribunal that Countryfile director Dean Jones warned her “to be careful with those wrinkles” and that the introduction of HD TV would be “crunch time” for her career. Another director of the programme, Louise Pyne, told her “it’s time for Botox”.
In her witness statement, Ms O’Reilly wrote: “I do not believe that a man would be asked about his wrinkles nor offered hair dye. It was clear to me that this was a reflection of the BBC’s view that women on TV needed to look young.”
During her appearance before the tribunal, Ms Smith endorsed this view: “It was obviously discussed a lot by members of the team and it was a reflection of what the BBC more corporately wanted.”
Ms Smith said corporation bosses “wanted the programme to look and feel younger and they felt they could not do it with us”. She told the tribunal, however, that there was a general feeling among the Countryfile team that the four female presenters had been “badly treated” and added: “I don’t feel the new presenters are doing anything that I am not capable of.”
The tribunal continues.
- BBC presenter dropped because ‘she was not young and pretty enough’ (Guardian)
- BBC presenter warned over wrinkles and urged to consider Botox (The Solicitor)
- Discrimination law (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Employment law Q&A (Community)
- Find an employment solicitor (Contact Law)
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