'Vindicated' Mayer attacks BBC response to bullying

Mayer: BBC reaction to Ayre’s findings are "flawed from start to finish"

The BBC’s response to allegations of bullying and harassment at its South East newsroom has been "flawed from start to finish", according to Laurie Mayer, whose departure sparked an internal inquiry.

The newsreader, who was "unceremoniously sacked" from his job presenting BBC South East Today in July, claimed he was "vindicated" by the findings of Richard Ayre, the former head of news and controller of editorial policy.

But Mayer was also critical of the BBC’s response to the findings. "Things went badly wrong but it seems no one is to blame and no one is being disciplined," he said. "Those responsible for the mistakes keep their jobs but I am out of work."

Mayer is taking legal advice and has called for the full report to be made public.

A letter to staff summarising the findings of the inquiry from Andy Griffee, the controller of English regions, said Ayre had found there was "inappropriate management behaviour which could have led to people feeling intimidated".

Ayre also criticised the BBC for allowing two managers who were partners – acting newsgathering editor Davina Reynolds and output editor Rod Beards – to work together at Tunbridge Wells.

Griffee told staff Reynolds had asked to move and would be found a "mutually acceptable alternative post" and stressed that "in no way is this a disciplinary matter".

Mayer said the report backed his core complaints but he criticised the outcome, noting: "Ayre says the events of the past year left individuals ‘drained frustrated and demotivated’."

Griffee also outlines a five-point "programme of change" to apply the lessons learnt from the inquiry and to address staff concerns about training needs and career development.

Mayer was critical of the decision to allow the head of the region, Laura Ellis, to carry out the plans after "refusing over the past year to acknowledge there was any problem".

He also slammed the BBC for the "astonishing omission" of any reference to his complaints that sparked the inquiry.

After taking evidence from 33 staff, Ayre concluded "that there was no systematic favouritism by the management team", nor was he convinced "that any individual manager operated a policy of favouritism".

But he did identify individual actions that he thought "might have led some staff to believe that they were being treated more or less favourably than others".

Mayer’s call for an inquiry was backed by journalists at BBC South East Today as well as by NUJ members at the BBC newsroom in Birmingham where both Beards and Reynolds had also worked under Ellis.

A statement from the BBC said: "We’re pleased that this issue is being resolved. We have acted swiftly and responsibly to investigate various allegations and are grateful to Richard Ayre for the thoroughness of his inquiry."

Julie Tomlin

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