Mayer to head to head with BBC

Laurie Mayer, who accused the BBC of bullying regional news staff last year, has been given the go-ahead to take a case of unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal.

Mayer, 56, a BBC journalist for 30 years, was lured back to the BBC in May 2001, to head up a team of presenters for a BBC South East news show, after a stint as press spokesman for Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed.

But he left after just 14 months, after he complained to regional head Laura Ellis about “a culture of intimidation” faced by staff at the Tunbridge Wells newsroom.

He walked out after being told that his contract would not be renewed, 15 minutes before he was due to go on air.

At the time, Mayer claimed he was “unceremoniously sacked” from his job of presenting South East Today. His departure sparked a BBC inquiry, led by former head of news and controller of editorial policy Richard Ayre.

The BBC had sought to get his case dismissed on the grounds that Mayer was “hired talent” and not a bona fide member of staff, and therefore not eligible to take the BBC to tribunal.

However, at the preliminary hearing this week, the BBC’s bid was rejected by chairman Frances Spencer.

Following the ruling, Mayer said he was pleased the tribunal could now go ahead, but was aware there was “still a long way to go”. “I’ve got the backing of the NUJ on this. They want to see it through and so do I. It’ll be an interesting story,” he added.

The BBC said it “would continue to defend its position”.

It is understood the BBC has 28 days to reproduce Ayre’s internal report for scrutiny at the tribunal, but no start date has been set for the proceedings.

By Wale Azeez

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