BBC sued again over age discrimination

Pubcaster sees four-fold increase in such cases since 2008

LONDON -- The BBC is facing yet more accusations of age and sex discrimination after yet another of its onscreen women has been axed.

Former "Countryfile" presenter and veteran BBC staffer of 25 years Miriam O'Reilly is suing the pubcaster for age and sex discrimination.

She was made redundant from the BBC1 rural nature program last year as part of a revamp that saw three 50-plus women replaced when the show moved into an early-evening slot.

O'Reilly's departure was just one of a string of high-profile departures of older onscreen women at the same time that the BBC has maintained men in comparable onscreen roles well beyond their 50s and 60s.

Last year's ousting of dance coach Arlene Phillips from "Strictly Come Dancing" in favor of the much younger Alesha Dixon caused uproar, as did the axing of some of television's highest-profile presenters, including newscaster Anna Ford.

The news of the legal case comes after it also emerged that the BBC is facing a four-fold increase in the number of discrimination cases brought by female employees in the past two years.

"We are the disappeared. No woman is safe in TV once she is over the age of 45," O'Reilly told the Daily Mail newspaper.

The impression that the BBC treats its male and female staff differently viewers was enhanced earlier this year the when Ceri Thomas, editor of flagship news Radio 4 program "Today" said that women were not tough enough to take the top news jobs. Again, the organization was widely condemned, even from within its own ranks.

Fellow Radio 4 presenter Mariella Frostrup said the pubcaster had a culture of sexism.

"The reason there aren't more women on the "Today" program is because they're a bunch of misogynists," she said, though Frostrup later apologized for her remarks and Thomas insisted that his comments has been "misrepresented."

The BBC did not return calls at press time, but in a statement said that the claims of sexism and ageism were "absolute nonsense."

O'Reilly's case will be heard by an industrial tribunal later this year.
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