Rowan Atkinson, the much loved British actor best known for his turns in Blackadder, Mr Bean and Johnny English, has backed the sacking of Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly - which many believed amounted to age discrimination. In a letter to Radio 4's The Media Show, the 57-year-old actor said television was the wrong place to deal with anti-discrimination issues.
In January 2011, O'Reilly won a landmark age discrimination case against the Bbc, after she was one of four women dropped from a peak-time revamp. She never returned to the programme, but has since hosted a daytime spin-off of Crimewatch. She quit the Bbc for good in January this year to set up the Women's Equality Network. In his letter to The Media Show, Atkinson said the Bbc show should have been free to drop O'Reilly from Countryfile without attracting accusations of age discrimination. He suggested the presenter's successful age discrimination case against the Bbc amounted to "an attack on creative free expression". Though the Blackadder star said he didn't blame O'Reilly for taking legal action, he said his 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 most recently starred in the spy-comedy sequel Johnny English Reborn, which grossed a total of $159 million worldwide, despite being made on a budget of around $45 million.