Rowan Atkinson's letter to the Guardian is reproduced below:
My letter to Radio 4's The Media Show last week about the Miriam O'Reilly/Countryfile age discrimination case has been interpreted in some odd ways (Report, 23 February; Letters, 28 February). For the avoidance of doubt, as a lawyer would say, my problem is not with BBC policy or the promotion of the cause of middle-aged women in that organisation, where, I am fully aware, there are injustices and prejudices: my problem is with the frightening power of the discrimination laws to which Miriam O'Reilly turned.
When she persuaded a court of law to do what previously would have been considered quite extraordinary – viz, to challenge and overturn a creative decision made by a TV producer – a Pandora's box of possibilities was prised open. Consider, for example, BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, a programme about women, for women, produced by a woman and presented by women. A discriminatory concept, by any measure, and yet for me a fantastic programme, largely because of its uncompromising creative stance. How long before a disgruntled male, his application to be a presenter of the programme having been rejected, takes court action against it on the grounds of gender discrimination? The legal tools are there. Why can't a 60-year-old take action against the BBC's Blue Peter on age discrimination grounds, for their policy of hiring only young presenters? The possibilities are endless.
Miriam O'Reilly's case has made creative people aware of some scary, previously unexplored legislative territory, for the exposure of which, in many ways, we should be extremely grateful to her. What can we do about it? Not much. If it was BBC policy, perhaps it could be influenced. But it's not, it's the law of the land.
Article from the Guardian