RDF Media, maker of the award-winning Channel 4 series Faking It, could be about to face its most challenging scenario yet, as a freelance journalist contracted to the programme prepares to sue the production company for breach of contract.
RDF engaged broadcast journalist and consultant Tim Arnold as a tutor on a show in the forthcoming series, in which the contestant, a newsagent, will try to pass as a celebrity reporter after a brief period of training.
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However, RDF has subsequently withdrawn its offer of employment to Arnold, deciding to replace him with a female tutor, citing “editorial issues”.
Now Arnold wants to sue RDF through the NUJ for breach of contract, and is considering including the charge of sex discrimination.
In an e-mail seen by Press Gazette, Emily Jones, associate producer on the programme, admitted that Arnold was “perfectly qualified” to teach the candidate, but said the programme had changed its mind and decided to recruit a woman tutor instead of Arnold, in addition to the already contracted Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan.
“Telling you that we had changed our mind was particularly difficult due to the degree to which you are obviously qualified to teach the subject. Not only do you have the perfect background and experience, but you also clearly have the authority to convey to an audience that you really know the business. Which is why it makes it so hard to lean on editorial reasons for our decision,” the e-mail said.
“Considering you were perfectly qualified to teach her, we realised the only way we would get over this clash with Piers was to use a female tutor. It’s a shallow reason, I know, but ultimately we have to think of the film that we are making,” it continued.
Arnold said: “I believe this kind of discrimination goes on a lot more within the industry than people realise. It’s an absolute outrage.”
However, Stephen Lambert, director of programmes at RDF, dismissed any impending lawsuit out of hand, insisting there was no contract between the company and Arnold.
“It’s like an actor going to an audition and then suing because he didn’t get a part in a play. I think it’s a joke. The man is deluded. He doesn’t understand the law and he doesn’t understand television,” he told Press Gazette.
Arnold countered: “I do understand the law – I teach it at college. There was an exchange of promises, and that amounts to a contract. You don’t need to talk to somebody for there to be a contract. The NUJ’s lawyers are looking into this.”