'I don't hate women' says top female television executive

One of the most senior female TV executives in Britain today launched an emotional rebuttal of "utterly offensive" claims that she "hates" women.

Jay Hunt, the former BBC One controller, insisted she had promoted a number of women in their 40s and older into prime time TV slots during her tenure at the channel.



She described claims that four women in their 40s and 50s had been dropped from the BBC Countryfile programme because she "hated women" as "entirely and categorically" untrue.



Asked about the claim, she said: "It is entirely and categorically untrue, also profoundly distressing and utterly offensive on every level.



"I am a 43-year-old woman, I have had my own difficulties surviving this industry.



"For that reason, the last thing I would ever do is ever discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender or age. Nothing could be further from my mind.



"The only small comfort I have taken from such a distressing thing as this is the number of women both behind the camera and in front of the camera who have got in touch with me, sympathetic and outraged that I have had to sit there and listen to such a hateful thing."



Ms Hunt was speaking at the tribunal hearing brought by former BBC Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly, 53, who was dropped by the programme before it moved to a prime time Sunday evening slot in April 2009.



The BBC has denied a claim of sex and age discrimination by Ms O'Reilly and has said she was dropped from the flagship programme because she lacked the necessary prime time television experience.













Ms Hunt said she rejected Ms O'Reilly's claim that the requirement for presenters of the revamped Countryfile to have prime time audience appeal was discriminatory on the grounds of age and sex as it placed women over the age of 45 at a disadvantage.

"I do not believe this is so," she said.



She said when she joined as BBC One controller in May 2008, she had been committed to improving "diversity" on screen to ensure that it better reflected the audience it served.



The BBC One audience is predominantly over 55 and female, she said, and it was "important" and "entirely appropriate" that they use "older female authority figures" in peak time.



Notable examples, she said of her work to boost older women were those of Anne Robinson, brought back to Watchdog in its "peak" and actor Sheila Hancock to the Saturday night hit show Over the Rainbow, she said.



Women in their 40s and above given programmes under her tenure she said included Rosa Monckton, 57, Rosie Boycott, 59, and Angela Hartnett, 42.



She added that under her tenure she had not just given older women their first breaks but boosted those already established such as the newscaster Fiona Bruce.



Those women over 45 featuring on the BBC prime time schedules include Joanna Lumley, Sue Barker, Mariella Frostrup and Maureen Lipman, she told the tribunal.



"It is not true that women in their 40s (and above) do not have a role in the Channel, they have an extremely important role in the Channel.



"I have nurtured many of them in my time in the role," she said.





















"Prime time audience appeal is not, as Ms O'Reilly seems to think, based on age or sex," Ms Hunt said.

She added that she believed Ms O'Reilly was an "extremely talented" news reporter but her strengths lay as a "straight news reporter" rather than the "immersive" demands envisaged in the new revamped Countryfile programme.



She later told the tribunal that since the changes brought in to the programme the audience had leaped to an average of 5.4 million compared to 1.8 million in its daytime slot. Last Sunday, there was an audience of 7.9 million, she said.



Three other female presenters Michaela Strachan, 42, Juliet Morris, 45, and Charlotte Smith, 46, were also dropped from the show along with Ms O'Reilly in advance of its move to a prime time slot.



Ms O'Reilly told the tribunal she was "devastated" when she was told the news that she would no longer be working on the flagship rural affairs programme in November 2008.



In her evidence to the tribunal, Ms O'Reilly has claimed she was warned to be "careful with those wrinkles when high definition comes in" nine months before she was dropped.



Ms O'Reilly has also claimed Ms Morris had agreed it was ageist for the BBC to drop the four women.



Giving evidence, Ms O'Reilly claimed: "I had a conversation with Juliet Morris. She said the decision was ageist and it was made because Jay Hunt hated women."



In a statement issued outside the tribunal, Ms Morris denied the charge.



"I would like to make it clear that I have no recollection of ever having said that Jay Hunt hates women or that I was dropped from Countryfile on account of my age. Furthermore, I do not believe this to be the case," she said.



The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow when Ms Hunt, who is currently on gardening leave from the BBC before taking up a senior role at Channel 4 in January, will continue to give evidence.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf