The BBC is facing a rapidly increasing number of claims for sex and age discrimination by its female staff.

The number of cases has quadrupled in two years, as corporation bosses have faced a series of public outcries over decisions such as the axing of Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips.

But to prevent embarrassing revelations about the BBC’s working culture, executives have repeatedly given payments to women alleging discrimination – in exchange for their silence.

Insiders say licence fee cash has regularly been used to bury claims of sexism and ageism, issues which have been linked to the way older women are treated at the broadcaster.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the past year there have been 12 cases brought by women alleging sexual discrimination at the corporation.

This was up from nine in the year before and three in the year before that.

There have also been a further three cases of ageism brought against the BBC by women in the last three years.

The broadcaster refuses to say how many of these women it has given payments to stop an employment tribunal.

But it is understood this has happened on several occasions in recent years and that is why these type of cases against the BBC have rarely if ever actually reached court.

The decision to drop Moira Stuart as a TV news reader was one of the most controversial examples of perceived sexism and ageism at the BBC in recent years.

This was followed by the decision to axe Miss Phillips. Presenters such as Selina Scott, Anna Ford and Kate Adie have also attacked the BBC’s attitude towards older women amid accusations it shunts females off screen once they reach a certain age.

In 2008 Miss Scott won a payout, believed to have been about £250,000, from Channel Five after she said she had been offered a newsreading job only for it to be given to two younger presenters.

Experts say the increase in cases could be because women have become emboldened to speak out against bosses or because the problems are actually getting worse.

An actress who was written out of a BBC drama after bosses found out she was pregnant is said to have received a payout while top discrimination lawyers also say the BBC has previously paid out to settle cases.

Kate Kinninmont of Women in Film and TV, a campaigning group that promotes the interests of women in the industry, said the known sex and ageism cases in TV could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

She said: ‘The whole background to it is that there is widespread ageism particularly for women. You do still see lots of older men on TV but when did you last see a woman on TV with grey hair that wasn’t a soap character.’

A spokesman said: ‘The BBC takes its responsibilities as a fair employer very seriously. Employing over 17,000 people means that on occasion there will be cases such as this but over the course of three years this represents a very small proportion of our total workforce.’

Article from The Daily Mail