Rowan Atkinson Blasts Miriam O'Reilly's BBC Ageism Case

Rowan Atkinson

First Posted: 23/02/2012 07:50 Updated: 23/02/2012 07:54   PA

Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson has waded into the debate about ageism on television, saying Miriam O'Reilly's legal action against the BBC was an "attack on creative free expression".

The former Countryfile presenter won an age discrimination case against the corporation in 2011 after she was rejected for a role on a revamped prime-time version of the popular rural affairs programme.

In a letter sent to BBC Radio 4's The Media Show, Atkinson said he did not "blame" Ms O'Reilly for "pursuing her case".

He added: "My 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."

Atkinson compared her case to "Pierce Brosnan complaining that he was sacked from the role of James Bond for being too old" and said the BBC show was "no less contrived" than a 007 movie.

He said: "And as with any creative construct, whether it's a BBC Factual Television programme or a film or an oil painting, if creative freedom means anything, it is having complete creative latitude to include or exclude anybody or anything for any reason."

He added: "I remain amazed that, to this day, few people seem to appreciate the attack on creative free expression that Miriam O'Reilly's case represents."

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Filed by Sarah Dean  |