One of Channel 4’s senior news presenters has quit after she was told her hair was too scruffy for TV.
Samira Ahmed, 42, who has been on Channel 4 News for 11 years, announced her departure this week following clashes with bosses over her appearance.
A close friend of Miss Ahmed said she had been treated in a ‘sexist’ manner.
Her decision to leave comes after claims she was repeatedly told by executives at ITN, which employs her, that Channel 4 chiefs did not like her hair.
They are said to have told her she was jeopardising her employer’s contract to provide news for Channel 4, and the jobs of colleagues.
Sources said she had been called into a room so bosses could point out on pictures of her what was wrong with her hair.
Insiders say relations got so bad that she had to get written permission every time she wanted to leave the newsroom. It is also claimed she was being pressurised into taking a demotion from her role as presenter to reporter.
There was tension over her appearances on BBC shows such as Celebrity Mastermind and Have I Got News For You.
It is understood that Miss Ahmed has been given a pay-off to keep silent on the bitter rows with bosses at the news service.
One Channel 4 insider last night said they struggled to see how her hair was any different to that of many of the other presenters used by the programme.
The claims are likely to lead to questions over the role of women on the show. The main presenting jobs on the programme have been dominated by men since it launched in 1982.
It has for many years been fronted by Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Last month it was revealed that political correspondent Cathy Newman is to be a third regular presenter.
Miss Ahmed was invited to apply for the role, but not given the job. She used to present Channel 4’s noon bulletin before it was axed in 2009 and has hosted weekend bulletins. She is often the second-tier newsreader.Long-standing presenter: Ms Ahmed presented the Channel 4 news for 11 years alongside Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murphy
The relationship between Miss Ahmed and her bosses reached a low point last June after she filmed a report about Government advertising in the wake of the spending cuts.
She was seen speaking to the camera in a London square. Her hair was left loose. The report is understood to have been put together on a day Channel 4 chiefs were visiting the newsroom and ITN bosses were desperate to impress them.
Miss Ahmed is understood to have been told that the shots of her had to be removed from the report. But she refused and it went out with her still in it. Bosses are said to have accused her of risking her colleagues’ jobs and the ITN contract with Channel 4 by not doing what they had told her.
It is claimed that she was facing disciplinary action for ‘defying an editorial order’. Then she alleged she was bullied and treated in a sexist manner. It is understood her claim was not upheld and that Channel 4 News did not pursue the disciplinary action.
Channel 4 News said it ‘did not recognise this version of events’ leading up to Miss Ahmed’s departure. It said it was ‘focused on the fantastic new appointments to our presenting line-up’.
Miss Ahmed has secured work at the BBC. It is understood she will feature on Radio 4 shows such as PM and The World At One. She refused to comment on the claims.
Do you think she should have quit or should have stood her ground? Would you quit if your boss said he/she didn’t like your hair?