A tribunal has reserved judgment in the case of a former BBC Countryfile presenter who claims she was a victim of age and sex discrimination when she was rejected for a role on the prime time version of the show.
Miriam O’Reilly, 53, a former Midlands Today presenter, was ruled out in “one sentence” by former BBC One controller Jay Hunt from going forward to work on the new revamped Countryfile programme because her experience was in radio, the tribunal was told.
The BBC has denied a claim of age and sex discrimination brought by Ms O’Reilly after she was dropped by the programme before it moved to a prime time slot in April 2009.
Ms Hunt denies having ruled out Ms O’Reilly from going forward to the prime time show during a conversation with BBC rural affairs head Andrew Thorman.
Heather Williams QC, for Ms O’Reilly, said Ms Hunt had accepted such a decision would have been “unfair” as she “simply did not have the information” at the time about Ms O’Reilly.
“We say there can only be one inference and that was because she was taking into account the claimant’s gender and indeed the claimant’s age and she felt that she would not fit with the image she wished to project for the new prime time Countryfile,” she said.
But Jason Galbraith-Marten, for the BBC, said even if the tribunal accepted Ms Hunt had made the ruling then the tribunal could not reach a verdict of sex and age discrimination.
“If that is right, and you accept that, it has nothing to do with age or sex,” he said.
A written judgment is expected either just before or after the Christmas holiday.