30 April 2010
Award-winning journalist and broadcaster Miriam O’Reilly is pleased that she has won the right for her claim of age and sex discrimination against the BBC to be heard at an employment tribunal in November.
Camilla Palmer, a discrimination law specialist and partner at Leigh Day, is representing Miriam in her claim against the BBC. This case will be one of the first of its type against the BBC that has got as far as the courts and has generated a great deal of interest in the media and prompted a passionate debate about gender equality in the media.
A recent debate organised by Media Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival and Bafta revealed some depressing statistics for women working in the media. 5,000 women have left the industry in the last three years compared with 750 men and only 9% of women in TV are over 50 compared with 24% of men. There is also evidence of a considerable pay gap between men and women working in the industry.
At a meeting organised by Women in TV and Media, attended by about 80 women, there were many stories of discrimination in the media such as:
- Dismissing a woman of 50 when a man of the same age would not be dismissed
- Asking a woman what she is going to do to hide her wrinkles with the introduction of high definition television, but not asking a man
- Telling a woman but not a man that she needs to lose weight
Miriam O’Reilly’s story
Miriam O’Reilly has worked on some the most popular programmes produced by the BBC including Farming Today, Countryfile, Costing the Earth, File on 4 and Woman’s Hour. Despite her record as an award-winning journalist who has received recognition in particular for her coverage of environmental issues, she was dropped from Countryfile at the end of 2008 when the programme moved to a new prime-time position in the television schedules. Three other female journalists, all in their forties and fifties were dropped from the programme at the same time. After working regularly for the BBC for some 25 years Miriam found that all work from the corporation dried up shortly after this.
Many women in the media are watching the case with interest including ex-BBC journalist and Voice for Older People, Joan Bakewell. Renowned crime writer and former governor of the BBC PD James, who famously embarrassed the Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson on an edition of the Today programme earlier this year, said:
“There can be no doubt that women suffer far more than men from the present cult of ageism and many women at the height of their achievements are denied opportunities of work because of an unreasonable prejudice in favour of the young. This is not only frustrating for the women concerned, but it denies audiences a wealth of maturity, experience and talent which we can ill afford to lose.”
Camilla Palmer said:
“Launching a discrimination case against an organisation such as the BBC is not to be taken on lightly but it is clear from the reaction we have had from hundreds of women who work in the media that Miriam is not alone in experiencing discriminatory and illegal treatment at work”.
For more information about this case please contact Camilla Palmer on 020 7650 1200.
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