In O’Reilly v British Broadcasting Corporation the London Central Employment Tribunal upheld a female TV presenter’s claim that she had suffered age discrimination when she was replaced by a younger female presenter.
The BBC sought to argue that younger presenters were necessary to appeal to younger viewers. However the tribunal considered that it would not be proportionate to do away with older presenters simply to pander to the assumed prejudice of younger viewers.
However, the tribunal did not uphold Ms O’Reilly’s claim for sex discrimination as whilst arguably sexist comments were made about her appearance, such comments were generally made by more junior members of staff who did not have involvement in the appointment of the presenters.
This decision will have enormous implicaitons for all broadcasters and the wider media industry and reveals just how robust an employer’s arguments will need to be to justify direct age discrimination.