Black Rowan Atkinson

March 20, 2012 by staff 

Black Rowan Atkinson, At odds over age: Rowan Atkinson and Miriam O’Reilly, The BBC should have been free to drop Miriam O’Reilly from Countryfile without attracting any accusations of age discrimination, according to comedian Rowan Atkinson, in a controversial intervention into the debate about the lack of older women on television.

The 57-year-old Blackadder, Mr Bean and Johnny English star said – in a letter to Radio 4′s The Media Show – that O’Reilly’s successful age discrimination case against the BBC amounted to an “attack on creative free expression” and that television was the wrong place to deal with anti-discrimination issues.

Atkinson wrote that he did not blame O’Reilly for taking legal action, but added that his argument “would be that the creative industries are completely inappropriate environments for anti-discrimination legislation and that the legal tools she used should never have been available to her”.

In January 2011, O’Reilly won a landmark age discrimination case against the BBC after she was one of four women in their 40s or 50s who were dropped from a peaktime revamp of BBC1′s Countryfile.

She never returned to the programme, but has since hosted a daytime spin-off of Crimewatch. O’Reilly quit the BBC in January, 12 months into a three-year BBC contract, to set up the Women’s Equality Network with the lawyer who secured her tribunal victory, Camilla Palmer.

Atkinson said O’Reily’s complaint was no more sensible than “Pierce Brosnan complaining that he was sacked from the role of James Bond for being too old” and that true creative freedom for both Bond films and Countryfile could only mean that producers should have complete artistic latitude.

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