By Wale Azeez
Laurie Mayer, the former BBC journalist given permission in February to take the corporation to an employment tribunal, has obtained a date for what is set to be one of the highest profile hearings against the BBC in recent times.
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The four-day hearing has been set for 15 September in Ashford, Kent. The BBC tried to prevent a tribunal by suggesting Mayer was not eligible to bring it because he was considered “hired talent” and not a bona fide member of staff (Press Gazette, 20 February 2003).
However, at a preliminary hearing, the BBC’s bid was rejected by chairman Frances Spencer. Mayer will be represented by NUJ lawyers Thompson’s.
Mayer, a BBC veteran of 30 years’ standing, accused the BBC of bullying regional news staff and claimed he was “unceremoniously sacked” from his job of presenting South East Today, after complaining to regional head Laura Ellis about “a culture of intimidation” faced by staff at the Tunbridge Wells newsroom.
Before his departure in September 2002, he had returned in May 2001 to head a team of presenters for BBC South East news, following a stint as press spokesman for Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed.
But Mayer walked out of the newsroom – after just 16 months – when he was told his contract would not be renewed, 15 minutes before he was due to go on air.
Mayer’s departure from South East Today sparked a BBC inquiry, led by former head of news and controller of editorial policy, Richard Ayre.
Mayer was asked to speak at this year’s Edinburgh TV festival, but for legal reasons has now declined.
“I could only really have spoken about my personal situation, and that wouldn’t have been appropriate,” he said.