John McCririck loses age discrimination case against Channel 4
Racing pundit John McCririck was dumped by Channel 4 because he was "alienating" and "offensive", an employment tribunal heard.
On the first day of his employment tribunal, racing pundit John McCririck insisted he was a victim of age discrimination and is not sexist.
A TV executive has denied claims by racing presenter John McCririck that she was a "serial age discrimination offender".
Jay Hunt, Channel 4's chief creative officer, told an employment tribunal she felt there was "no correlation" between younger presenters drawing younger audiences.
She added that claims by McCririck, who says he was sacked by the channel because of his age, were "untrue".
Hunt was at the BBC when presenter Miriam O'Reilly won an age discrimination case against the corporation after she was dropped from the Countryfile programme.
"Contrary to what John McCririck says, I have learnt from that case," Hunt told the tribunal.
A senior television producer suggested John McCririck should be dropped from the revamped Channel 4 racing line-up because his "pantomime" presenting was a distraction, an employment tribunal has heard.
Carl Hicks, the IMG production company's executive producer of Channel 4 Racing, said there was no "appropriate role" for the flamboyant presenter.
"John was an eccentric and seen at worst as a loud-mouthed and chauvinistic extraordinaire, which was not what I wanted to be part of the team to broaden racing," Hicks told the central London hearing.
"My perception from watching John McCririck on television in the past was that he came across as being aggressive, sexist and non-inclusive."
The former boss of John McCririck claims the racing pundit was dropped by Channel 4 because he was "unappealing and irritating" to many Channel 4 viewers.
Jamie Aitchison was giving evidence at Mr McCririck's employment tribunal, where the 73-year-old claims he was sacked because of his age.
ITV News correspondent Juliet Bremner reports:
Horse racing pundit John McCririck was sacked from Channel 4 because he was "irritating" to viewers, an employment tribunal has heard.
Jamie Aitchison, the commissioning editor for sport at Channel 4, said McCririck was a "comic act" who brought a "farcical tone" to shows and was not left out of its new horse racing presenting team because of age.
Aitchison said concerns over McCririck's style were supported by audience surveys, press coverage and viewer complaints.
He added that the pundit's "exaggerated tone and style and propensity to offend was out of step with the vision for the programme, and also unappealing and irritating to many current and potential viewers".
John McCririck's appearances as a "pantomime villain" on a number of reality TV shows, did not reduce his "gravitas" as a serious racing pundit, he told an employment tribunal.
The former Channel 4 racing presenter is taking his former employers to tribunal, alleging his sacking last year was motivated by age discrimination.
The tribunal heard how McCririck had accepted he acted in a way that could be seen as sexist and bigoted, but said this behaviour had no baring on his ability to do his job. He said:
"No one ever came to me. Nobody has ever questioned my professionalism on Channel 4 racing, ever.
"My pantomime villain sexist image has been deliberately cultivated and played up.
"Because Captain Hook is horrid to children in Peter Pan it does not mean the actor playing him goes around abusing kids."
Racing pundit John McCririck said he had never been ordered to tone down his on-screen style by Channel 4, which he said saw him portray a "pantomime villain".
The 73-year-old, who claims he was sacked last year because of his age, also denied he was "anti-women" as he spoke on the first day of his employment tribunal against the channel. It was later adjourned until tomorrow morning.
McCririck claims he was dropped so the station's "youth-obsessed bosses" could unveil a new presenting team headed by Clare Balding.
He said the loss of his job had left him depressed and reduced to watching daytime TV, adding: "I want to work, I am capable of working and I have been denied work illegally. To wake up in the morning and not have a job to go to is awful."
John McCririck has said Channel 4 encouraged him to go on reality shows like Celebrity Wife Swap and Celebrity Big Brother before his new racing bosses told him they had "lessened his credibility" to the audience.
Speaking ahead of his tribunal, the pundit said his former employer acted illegally when they dropped him from their racing coverage, accusing them of ageism in "freshening up" their line-up with younger broadcasters.
Channel 4 has thanked John McCririck for his years of racing broadcasting, but confirmed it will "vigorously" fight the claim he was dropped because of his age.
A statement was released ahead of the tribunal opening in central London.
– Channel 4 spokesman
We are grateful to John McCririck for his contribution towards Channel 4 Racing over many years.
However we reject the suggestion that discrimination on the basis of age played any part in the decision not to include John in the Channel 4 Racing team from 2013 and we are vigorously defending this claim.
Racing pundit John McCririck has arrived at the London Central Employment Office for the start of his tribunal over alleged age discrimination.
The broadcaster and journalist is suing Channel 4 for unfair dismissal.