'They didn't like it that a woman had stood up to them': Countryfile's Miriam O'Reilly reveals she quit the BBC because execs 'resented' her age discrimination victory
15:34 GMT, 26 March 2012
Quit: Miriam O'Reilly has said 'seething resentment' from some executives led to her decision to leave the BBC
She famously won her case of age discrimination against the BBC but presenter Miriam O'Reilly has said her mistreatment from the corporation didn't end there.
The former Countryfile presenter had been looking forward to returning to work for the broadcasters after her landmark victory.
But she has revealed she experienced 'seething resentment' from a group of executives upon her return.
'From certain individuals there was a seething resentment that I had won the case, executives who were really angry that I had challenged them and won resoundingly. They didn't like it that a woman had stood up to them.' she told The Guardian.
O'Reilly said the majority of her
colleagues had shown support and respect for how she had taken on the
BBC but a minority resorted to 'playground name-calling' and accused her 'of not having a sense of humour'.
As a result, the 55-year-old has now quit the BBC a year after she was given a new three-year contract following her tribunal win.
The presenter said it became apparent that the contract was only
a 'damage-limitation exercise rather than a wish to make amends and to address the problem of inequality at the BBC.'
While she had hoped her new contract would mean she would return to presenting shows including Countryfile on BBC1 and the Woman's Hour and Farming Today on BBC Radio 4, instead she was only given a role co-hosting the Crimewatch Roadshow, a daytime spin-off of BBC1's Crimewatch, and appearances on the BBC World Service.
O'Reilly is now going to be patron of the Women's Equality Network which was set up by lawyer Camilla Palmer, who won her tribunal case.
O'Reilly fought the case after she and fellow Countryfile presenters Juliet Morris, Charlotte Smith and Michaela Strachan, who were all in their 40s or 50s, were sacked when the show was given a revamp in 2009.
Out with the old… O'Reilly was replaced on Countryfile by Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury and was not asked to return despite her age discrimination victory
It was moved from a Sunday morning to evening time slot with younger presenters Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury – and has since proved a ratings hit.
O'Reilly said she didn't think the success was down to its youthful makeover, although she added, we 'will never know because we didn't get the opportunity to present it because of our age.'
It was also revealed at her tribunal that BBC excecutive had told her to consider having Botox and 'be careful about those wrinkles' if she wanted to remain on primetime TV.
Around the time of her departure from Countryfile, other older women were also removed from high profile presenting roles including Moira Stewart from BBC News and Arlene Phillips as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing.
Apology: BBC director general Mark Thompson has admitted they should have more older women in presenting roles
The current BBC director general, Mark Thompson, who is stepping down from the role in the autumn, recently admitted the corporation had made a mistake by sidelining older women.
Those who say that the BBC has a case to answer about the way it treats older women on the air are right. We do,' he said.
He added that O'Reilly's case had been 'an important wake-up for the whole BBC' and that there are 'too few women in key news and current affairs presenting roles.'
O'Reilly said she hopes the Women's Equality Network will be able to help others who feel discriminated against because of their age and gender.
'It is very isolating when you are in a situation where you feel you are being unfairly treated. There is really no one to talk to or go to, HR departments or colleagues, it just doesn't work… people start to see you as a troublemaker.'