Poor treatment is the BBC way, says Sissons

Veteran newsreader Peter Sissons waded into the BBC sexism row today by claiming the corporation treats men just as badly as older women.

Responding to Selina Scott's claims of "casual maiming which leaves women with their confidence and career in tatters", Sissons said the treatment "goes from top to bottom of the organisation, regardless of age or gender".

Scott challenged the BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust, to address "blatant and sometimes malign sexism and ageism against women".

But in a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Sissons, 68, wrote: "What Selina seems to have missed is that this is the BBC way, and has been for many years. It was a bitter complaint that I heard regularly during the 20 years I worked in the newsroom.

"Not just highly paid women presenters get the treatment, but it goes from top to bottom of the organisation, regardless of age or gender.

"Hundreds of demoralised people at Television Centre will testify to this."

Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the BBC Trust, offered to meet Scott after she sent a dossier which she predicted will "trigger nothing short of a revolution within Television Centre".

The 59-year-old, once known as the BBC's "Golden Girl", said: "The dossier contains an exhaustive account of blatant and sometimes malign sexism and ageism against women within what is probably the major tastemaker and social arbiter in Britain."

She said the corporation had done nothing to combat the under-representation of older women on television, and the "obsession" with youth had increased.

A Trust spokesman said Sir Michael and another trustee, Mehmuda Mian, would be happy to meet Scott to discuss the issue.

In 2008 Scott sued channel Five for age discrimination after what she saw as the "final rejection" in years of "suffering at the hands" of the BBC and ITV.

She said the way she was treated amounted to a "disregarding, unthinking, almost casual maiming which leaves women like me with their confidence and career in tatters but which is done in a sly and almost Machiavellian way".

Sissons retired from the BBC last year after a 45-year career spanning the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

His letter went on to highlight the proposed move of BBC One's Breakfast programme from London to the corporation's new studios in Salford, saying that Breakfast's staff will now "wonder who's in and who's out".

The BBC was criticised for a perceived bias against women over 50 when Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips was replaced by 30-year-old Alesha Dixon last year.

And there was further controversy earlier this year when Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly, 53, launched a tribunal case against the corporation after she was dropped following a revamp of the programme.

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