Miriam O’Reilly’s ageism win against the Beeb is a warning shot to all employers.
It was heartening to see Miriam O’Reilly win her ageism action against the Beeb yesterday. Let’s hope it give the corporation, and other broadcasters, food for thought, though I find it risible that her sexism claim was dismissed – she only lost her job because of her age AS A WOMAN. If she had been the same age and male, the problem wouldn’t have arisen.
O’Reilly, 53, was an award-winning journalist and had presented Countryfile for ten years when she was informed that she was to lose her job when the programme changed slot from early morning to prime-time television.
She wasn’t the only one, either – three other female presenters, all in their 40s, were fired, though the elderly John Craven was kept on, looking somewhat out of place among the new-look Countryfile’s stable of hot, new presenters.
There’s nothing wrong with the new programme. I like the format and the new presenters are all fine, particularly Julia Bradbury (pushing 40 herself). But I’ve liked them a lot less since I found out the price that was paid by others to put them there.
It’s not as if Countryfile is a yoof show anyway. The programme’s demographic is middle-aged (like me, officially) and even if they are now aiming to appeal to younger viewers, surely a Sunday evening slot is what you might call family viewing? And what do the powers that be imagine is so shocking about seeing people of all ages on our screens in any case? The Beeb is meant, under its charter, to accurately reflect the cultural diversity of Great Britain – do they think that when people look around them, all they see in the street is people under 40? It’s not fucking Logan’s Run out there.
It was quite brave for O’Reilly to take on the corporation – it made her ultra-conspicuous and doubtless every aspect of her dress and appearance has been gone over in the media (to no avail, she’s an attractive woman anyway so the Beeb can hardly pretend she wasn’t presentable). And it must also have cost a fortune.
But it needed doing, on behalf of all the other women the Beeb has egregiously fired or ousted into low-viewership, Saga-type programming over the years: Moira Stewart, Angela Rippon, Arlene Phillips, Selina Scott, Kate Adie, Jennie Bond, Anna Ford, Sue Lawley, the glorious Joan Bakewell. Not to mention Julia Somerville and Fiona Armstrong, whom the Beeb cringeingly cajoled back, only due to O’Reilly’s actions.
So, here’s watching the other 40+ female presenters and journos whom the Beeb will shortly, I imagine, consider too old and ugly to be on television – all of them capable women whom I would like to see on my screen for the next 20 years: Carrie Gracie, Fiona Bruce, Jane Hill, Sian Williams, Carole Walker, Louise Minchin, Lyse Doucet, Orla Guerin, Bridget Kendall, and the redoutable Kirsty Wark. Long may they reign.