Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Britain is a Country where the B.B.C. is a Corporation for old men but not older women.
Miriam O'Reilly, the sacked 53 year old presenter of the BBC programme 'Countryfile', has won an 'Age Discrimination Tribunal' case against the BBC which was found guilty of 'Ageism'.
Miriam at a press conference :
It is the first time an age discrimination case has been upheld against the BBC, which 'apologised' to Miriam and promised an 'immediate overhaul of how it recruits and appoints its presenters'. The verdict gives her the opportunity to claim damages including loss of earnings, injury to feelings and aggravated damages.
She said ageism was "endemic" in television and "part of the culture of broadcasting". She described the verdict as "historic". "I felt I was treated badly because of my age and taking on the BBC was the right thing to do, however hurtful and stressful it has been."
"I think broadcasters now realise that we are not going to take it. If you lose your job because of your age and not because you can't do it, it's a disgrace, it shouldn't be happening. After more than 25 years with the BBC I deserved to be judged on my ability and not on my appearance. I don't think having wrinkles is offensive."
She said that prior to this job loss, one Director of the programme had warned:
"You're going to have to be careful about those wrinkles when high-definition television comes in."
Another had asked: "Is it time for Botox?."
It had also been suggested that her hair had white roots and in one instance a cameraman brandished a can of black spray in order to cover these. In all, a strange picture of life as an older woman at the BBC began to form, a landscape in which every new wrinkle or grey hair threatened to sink the most well-established career.
It's interesting to note how different the situation is in the USA, where Oprah Winfrey,now inher late 50's, has just launched a whole network and Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart and Diane Sawyer are all widely respected fixtures on TV.
In the UK, by comparison, while older men have had signature series in their 60's and beyond like Michael Parkinson, David Attenborough, David Dimbleby, Alan Yentob and Melvyn Bragg, it's almost impossible to think of a woman in the same situation.
P.S. I found this Gaurdian article dealing with case entitled :
Britain is no country for old folk
Will Miriam O'Reilly's tribunal victory against the BBC herald an era of fair treatment for those over 50? Probably not.