John McCririck and his wife Jenny arriving at the London Central Employment Office as he is taking Channel 4 to court for unfair dismissal. Sean Dempsey/PA Wire/Press Association Images

John McCririck defends 'pantomime villain' act at tribunal hearing

Broadcaster claims he was sacked because of his age and says his ‘immature’ humour lightened up programmes

The betting pundit John McCririck has defended his on-screen persona as “pantomime” on the opening day of his employment tribunal against Channel 4, as he insisted that he had been sacked solely because of his age.
The 73-year-old is seeking £3m in damages from Channel 4 and the production company IMG Media after he was dropped from the channel’s racing output at the turn of the year.
At a tribunal in central London on Monday, McCririck claimed that his provocative statements, some of them sexist, were part of a role he played, especially when on reality TV shows.
“Because Captain Hook is horrible to Peter Pan and kids in Peter Pan, it doesn’t mean the actor playing him goes around abusing kids in the street,” said McCririck, who was accompanied by his wife, Jenny, at the hearing. “All this is a pantomime villain thing that Channel 4 encouraged.”
He denied that he was “anti-women” and said if anyone to whom he had given a nickname during his time on air had asked him to desist, he would have stopped. He described his humour as “a very public school thing, it’s a bit immature but it lightens up the programme. Channel 4 never, ever said: ‘Look, we don’t like this sexist thing, we don’t like it when you call your names, don’t wave your arms around.’”
McCririck, who said the loss of his job had left him depressed and reduced to watching daytime TV, claimed that he had been dismissed solely because of his age. “It’s an age thing, they use the word ‘freshen up’. Freshen up is a euphemism for kicking out older people,” he said. “People in their 30s onwards live in fear in this country that the new suits and skirts will come in and just go for new and trendy. It’s totally wrong.”
IMG replaced McCririck with Clare Balding after the company took over production duties on Channel 4′s racing coverage from Highflyer. McCririck said that IMG’s decision typified a culture in which, when new people came in, “they have got to change, they can’t go in and keep the same people”. He said: “There’s nobody better around, I have been sacked purely because of my age.”
He also quoted a line by the former home secretary David Blunkett who said that TV executives “worship the cult of youth”.
Channel 4 and IMG both deny that McCririck was dropped because of his age. A Channel 4 spokesman said the channel was grateful to his contribution over years, but added: “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.”
An IMG spokesman said: “Along with C4 we will strongly defend the claim that age played any part in the decision not to include John McCririck in the onscreen racing team.”
The tribunal was adjourned until Tuesday morning while the panel of judges reads witness statements and watches clips of McCririck’s appearances on television, including racing coverage as well as reality TV shows such as Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap.

This article titled “John McCririck defends ‘pantomime villain’ act at tribunal hearing” was written by Haroon Siddique and agency, for

© Guardian News & Media Limited 2014

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