Former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly was sacked from the BBC One series because of her age, despite repeated BBC denials to the contrary, an employment tribunal has ruled.
53-year-old O’Reilly was dropped from the show when BBC bosses took the decision to move it from a Sunday morning slot to primetime. Despite keeping veteran presenter John Craven, producers dropped four older female presenters.
The tribunal upheld O’Reilly’s claim for age discrimination and victimisation although it rejected a claim for sex discrimination.
The judgement found the presenter had been “dismissed almost entirely out of hand” and treated in a way which “was not justified”.
The tribunal cast doubt on evidence by current and former BBC figures and noted there was “no documentation whatsoever” relating to the decision to drop O’Reilly.
The judgement says the lack of documentation “makes it much more difficult for the respondent to explain the decisions and to state with clarity the grounds upon which the decisions were taken.”
O’Reilly welcomed the ruling, saying: “Words cannot describe how happy I feel. It’s historic and it’s going to have huge implications for all broadcasters.”
In a statement the BBC said it accepted the findings and “would like to apologise to Miriam.”
“The BBC is committed to fair selection in every aspect of our work and we clearly did not get it right in this case.
“We would like to acknowledge the important contribution Miriam has made to the BBC over more than 20 years and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss working with her again in the future.”
The BBC has also said programme makers would “undergo additional training in the selection and appointment of presenters.”