Media in the Press 12.1.11

POST-graduate student, Alessandro Brunelli, from Edinburgh Napier University, reviews the media stories in today’s newspapers….

A former presenter of the BBC programme, Countryfile, has won an age discrimination case against the Corporation, which is reported to have sacked her in November three years ago.

Says the Scottish Daily Mail (page 4) – which carries a picture of Miriam O’Reilly on its front page: “As the presenter celebrated a likely £150,000 payout last night, she said standing up to the BBC had been ‘the right thing to do, however hurtful it has been’.”

In the same article, it is reported that the BBC “issued a humiliating apology and would be happy to work with her again. The Corporation has now been forced to draw up fresh guidelines which will put a string of older stars on our screens”.

O’Reilly, 53, who had been replaced by Julia Bradbury, 40, is quoted, saying that she had been “treated badly because of age”.

The Scottish Daily Express (page 11) includes further claims attributed to O’Reilly, including that a “a producer had told her: ‘You’re going to have to be careful about those wrinkles when high definition comes in'”.

The Daily Records adds (page 6) that “three other female Countryfile presenters aged over 40 – Michaela Strachan, 42, Juliet Morris, 45, and 44 year-old Charlotte Smith – also got the boot before the relaunch”.

The Scottish Daily Mail (page 5) also publishes emails that appear to suggest how BBC bosses “panicked about [O’Reilly’s] accusations of sexism and ageism”.

Meanwhile, on the same page, under the headline, ‘Scots staff ‘young and female’’, the Mail provides data about the demographic of BBC Scotland, which the newspaper obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

In what is described as “a damning picture of the BBC’s obsession with youth at the expense of older staff”, it is reported that “two-thirds of Radio Scotland’s 128 permanent staff are women, and nearly seven in ten are under the age of 45”, and that “the older generation was woefully under-represented, with fewer than one in ten employees being more than 55 years old”.

Moving on, under an ‘exclusive’ banner, The Herald (page 5) reports that questions have been raised at Holyrood following footage broadcast by BBC Scotland of a police interview of Gail Sheridan, who was – along with her husband, Tommy – facing perjury charges following a successful defamation case staged by her husband, five years ago against the News of the World.

In the immediate wake of Tommy Sheridan last month being found guilty of perjury, the BBC screened the footage, which, among other things, has Gail’s silence being compared, by a detective, to the interview technique used by IRA terrorists.

LibDem justice spokesperson, Robert Brown, is reported having written to Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, seeking an explanation how the footage, involving Lothian and Borders Police, was acquired by the broadcaster. A parliamentary investigation has been called for by Brown, who is quoted fearing a loss of confidence in the police.

Brown is quoted asking whether “DVD recordings of the Sheridans being interviewed under caution were officially released to the BBC”.

The Scottish Daily Mail (page 9) also picks up the story.

In The Herald article, a BBC spokesperson is quoted, saying: “There was a clear public interest in broadcasting the tapes. As a journalistic organisation we take the protection of our sources seriously.”

Other media stories:

* Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange stated that, despite fears of being prosecuted in the US, “our work with Wikileaks continues unabated and we are stepping up our publication of materials relating to Cablegate and other materials”. – Daily Record (page 6).

* Kilmarnock Football Club chair, Michael Johnston, is reported saying that a 14-team Scottish Premier League would introduce “the kind of variety that appeals to the paying public and TV firms alike”. – Daily Record (page 52).

* Aberdeen football players, Zander Diamond and Michael Paton, are reported becoming the first players to be disciplined by the Scottish Football Association over remarks they allegedly made about the Pope on their Facebook pages – The Scottish Sun (page 18).

* Coronation Street’s Kym Marsh labelled a Twitter jibe about the death of her unborn child “the sickest tweet I’ve ever seen”. – The Scottish Sun (page 9).