An employment tribunal has held that Channel 4’s decision to remove John McCririck as a presenter of Channel 4 Racing was not direct discrimination on the grounds of his age. The decision was made because of his image and presenting style. Although the tribunal found that Channel 4’s objectives in removing the presenter were similar to those of the BBC in O’Reilly v British Broadcasting Corporation, where direct age discrimination was found to have occurred, it held that in this case Channel 4 did not reach its decision because of Mr McCririck’s age.
The 73 year old racing pundit who had worked as a presenter on Channel 4 racing since 1984, claimed that he had lost his job due to Channel 4 wanting a more youthful team and as a result he was sacked from Channel 4 Racing after almost 30 years with the programme.
Mr McCririck did however manage to persuade the Tribunal that the burden of proof should be shifted to Channel 4 on the basis that a younger presenter was retained and none of the presenters dismissed as part of the changes to the programme were under the age of 50.
In such circumstances it is then for the employer to prove that there was no discrimination on the grounds of age. Direct age discrimination occurs where, because of age, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others. However, unlike with the other protected characteristics, there will be no direct age discrimination where A can show that its treatment of B is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Although no express finding on whether Channel 4 removed Mr McCririck because of his age was made at this stage of the judgment, the tribunal then moved on to consider whether Channel 4’s treatment of Mr McCririck was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
The tribunal held that Channel 4’s aim was to attract a wider audience to horse racing. It decided that this was a legitimate aim for a broadcaster providing horse-racing coverage on television. It then moved on to consider whether Channel 4’s actions were a proportionate means of achieving this legitimate aim and decided that they were.
In its judgment, the panel said: “All the evidence is that Mr McCririck’s pantomime persona, as demonstrated on the celebrity television appearances, and his persona when appearing on Channel 4 racing, together with his self-described bigoted and male chauvinist views were clearly unpalatable to a wider audience”.
The tribunal further stated that “the tribunal is satisfied that the respondent had the legitimate aim of attracting a wider audience to horseracing.”
Mr McCririck said it was an “historic setback for all employees in their 30s to their 70s.”
It is not yet known whether Mr McCririck intends to appeal.
For more information on the issues raised in this case, please contact us on 01483 303636.
Clare McDairmant, Marketing Manager & Solicitor, Just Employment Solicitors.