The BBC has just been found guilty of age discrimination.
When her long-running TV show, Countryfile, was moved into the High-Def format, Miriam O’Reilly (then age 50) was dropped and replaced by a younger host, while her similarly aged male hosts kept their jobs. Producers had made comments to her about wrinkles and hair dye, and suggested Botox and other “fixes” for her signs of aging. In all, four women over 40 were let go while, for example, one 68-year old silver-topped man kept his gig. O’Reilly had been with the BBC for 25 years and after she was sacked, the work dried up. She was offered a BBC radio show about old age pensioners! (Seriously) Miriam is on the left, with her lawyer, after the court victory.
This is nothing new. We all wonder why some TV stars get their faces stretched into oblivion and this is why. But it’s always the women, of course. Men are perceived to just gracefully ease into another “look”. They’re allowed to go from “hot guy” to “kind uncle” to “grandfatherly”. We are not.
There was nothing else about Miriam that prevented her from doing her job. Calls and emails of protest flooded into the BBC after she was let go. She had loads of fans and had won stacks of awards for her work. And she’s no dowdy matron. She’s a hip single Mom, energetic and engaging.
After the ruling, the BBC said it’s interested in talking to Miriam about coming back. I’ll bet they are lest they lose every female viewer they ever had. They also say they’re going to revamp the way they look at handling employees so this doesn’t happen again. Compensation for Miriam is still to be determined. I hope it’s a huge payout. One that hurts like the prick of a Botox needle, over and over and over….