An Employment Tribunal hearing recently decided that John McCririck had not suffered age discrimination when Channel 4 took the decision to remove him as a presenter of the television programme Channel 4 Racing at the end of 2012.
Mr McCririck had worked as a presenter on Channel 4 for many years and was synonymous with horse racing coverage. From 2002 onwards, Mr McCririck worked alongside Tanya Stevenson, a much younger presenter (she was 32 at the time whereas he was 62).
Starting in 2008, Mr McCririck s presenting days were gradually reduced. In October 2012, he was informed that he would not be used at all from 1 January 2013. He was 72 years old at that time. Ms Stevenson would however be retained as a presenter, and would work alongside others, the majority of whom were under 50 years of age.
During the Employment Tribunal hearing, it was held that Mr McCririck had a unique presentation style and television persona, which included expressing sexist and outspoken views (often on reality television programmes). As the Tribunal put it: All the evidence is that Mr McCririck’s pantomime personality, together with his self-described bigoted and male chauvinist views were clearly unpalatable to a wider potential audience.
Mr McCririck’s removal as a presenter appeared to coincide with two key happenings. Firstly, Channel 4, having secured the exclusive right to broadcast horse racing coverage on terrestrial television, outlined a key objective to grow new audiences while retaining the support of the core loyal racing loving viewer. Secondly, Channel 4, having commissioned a survey in September 2012 for members of the public to give their opinions on a variety of presenters, discovered Mr McCririck scored badly with certain sections of the public.
Mr McCririck failed in his age discrimination claim. It would appear the desire to attract a wider audience was the driving factor for his removal and it presumably felt that McCririck was a barrier to this desire. His age therefore appeared to be irrelevant, it was the effect that he had on the audience that seemed to have led to the decision to remove him.