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Miriam O'Reilly faces discrimination and hostility

Experienced BBC journalist dropped from programmes sues for discrimination

Posted on 02 February 2010

Camilla Palmer, discrimination law specialist and partner at Leigh Day & Co, is representing the award-winning and experienced journalist, Miriam O’Reilly, in her claim for discrimination and victimisation on the grounds of age and sex.

Miriam has worked for the BBC for 25 years across a range of programmes on radio and television including popular shows such as Farming Today, Countryfile, Costing the Earth, File on 4 and Woman’s Hour.  She is a respected journalist, receiving recognition for her coverage of environmental issues, including winning the British Environment Media Award for Best Environmental Story; the Foreign Press Award and the Royal Television Society Award for Best Documentary for a programme about depleting fish stocks off the West African coast in 2005. She was runner-up for another Foreign Press award for her work on a Countryfile investigation and runner-up for a British Environment Media Award for a Costing the Earth programme looking at the dangers to water supplies in Australia from increasing salt levels. In short our client is a well-regarded and experienced journalist and broadcaster, recognised by her peers as someone who produces consistently excellent work.

Towards the end of 2008, Miriam was told because of Countryfile’s popularity the show was moving in the Spring of 2009 to a new prime-time slot on Sunday evenings, but that she would not be going forward. The three other female presenters on the programme, all in their forties and fifties, were also being dropped.

Stories began to appear in the media accusing the BBC of ageism and sexism. Our client was held responsible, without foundation. She denied the accusation in a conversation with a senior BBC executive who, during the course of exchanges, said, ‘one day someone will tell me I’m too old to do this job, and shuffle me off to retirement’. The stories accusing the BBC of ageism and sexism continued. Within months, Miriam found programmes that had been initially commissioned with her name attached were pulled. After 25 years with the BBC, work virtually dried up.

Miriam is now claiming direct discrimination on the part of the BBC on grounds of sex and/or age. She also alleges victimisation from the time of her removal from Countryfile to date. She is seeking compensation for loss of earnings and for injury to feeling.

For more information please contact discrimination law expert Camilla Palmer in the employment and discrimination team at Leigh Day & Co on 020 7650 1200.

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