Arlene Phillips unleashes blistering take on BBC as she 'resents' broadcaster over Strictly axe

Arlene Phillips unleashes blistering take on BBC as she 'resents' broadcaster over Strictly axe

WATCH HERE: Arlene Phillips speaks to Lorraine Kelly

Olivia Gantzer

By Olivia Gantzer

Published: 18/03/2024

- 14:02

Updated: 22/03/2024

- 10:10

The 80-year-old claims she wasn't told she was being dismissed from the show and replaced with Alesha Dixon

Dame Arlene Phillips has blasted her former employer, the BBC, for failing to tell her she’d been axed from Strictly Come Dancing.

The 80-year-old starred in the show as a judge alongside Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli from its debut in 2004 until she was unceremoniously axed after the 2008 series.

Despite the judging panel at the time and to this day being made up of dancing experts, Phillips was replaced by the 2007 winner of the show, singer Alesha Dixon, who at the time was 31.

The decision sparked a huge ageism row within the broadcaster, and Phillips recently admitted she still resents the corporation after finding out about her exit via a radio show.

“I was a grown-up when I did that show, so I resent that the BBC didn’t come to me as soon as they had the thought,” the choreographer reflected.

Speaking to The Guardian, she continued: “More than knocking my confidence, I think it swirled around me, and I thought, ‘I need to find myself.’

Arlene Phillips

Phillips starred as a judge on Strictly from 2004 to 2008


“I needed all the mental preparation that I could muster to go, ‘Hang on a minute – you had a big career before this and you’ve got work lined up.’

“I think I stepped up and out of it as fast as I could. When the rollercoaster goes down, find the up.”

At the time of the controversy, the then-equality minister Harriet Harman called for Phillips to return to the competition show, arguing she’d been a victim of “age discrimination”.

The BBC didn't formerly respond to Harman's request, but at the time reiterated its former comments that the decision hadn't been made due to Phillips' age.

Arlene Phillips and Bruno Tonioli

Phillips found out about her BBC departure though a radio show


Meanwhile, Dixon didn’t remain on the judging panel for long and made an exit from the show after the ninth series in 2011.

The current judging line-up consists of Shirley Ballas, Motsi Mabuse, Revel Horwood and Anton Du Beke.

Phillips isn’t the first person to have been at the centre of an ageism row with the broadcaster, with Moira Stuart embroiled in a similar controversy after being dropped from her Sunday morning slot 17 years ago at the age of 55.

The BBC was in a years-long battle with the courts after several other names also claimed they’d been dismissed due to ageism, such as Miriam O'Reilly and Anna Ford.

Arlene Phillips

Phillips admitted she 'resents' the BBC


Former Countryfile star O’Reilly ended up winning her employment tribunal against the BBC in 2011.

Speaking at the time, she told The Guardian: “I felt I was treated badly because of my age and taking on the BBC was the right thing to do, however hurtful and stressful it has been.”

The BBC declined to comment when contacted by GB News.

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