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Channel 4 did not directly discriminate because of age

Posted on 27th November 2013
Case law

The well-publicised claim by Mr McCririck against Channel 4 has been rejected, but will this be the end of it?

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using Mr M would be counter-productive to the aim [of reaching a wider audience’ due to his ‘strong persona’ and ‘self-described bigoted and male chauvinist views’

Mr McCririck v Channel 4 Television and IMG Media Ltd 2013

The facts

Mr M was a well known racing pundit, appearing on BBC and Channel 4 from 1970. From 2005 he began to appear on ‘reality TV’ shows including Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap. Mr M’s own profile for personal appearances included “racing pundit, loudmouth and male chauvinist extraordinaire, long standing betting guru. Famed for his outspoken attitude as much as his deerstalker hats”.

The number of his appearances for Channel 4 racing reduced from around 80 to 55 in 2008 and yet further to 40 in 2010.

Channel 4 won the bid for racing coverage of ‘jewel in the crown’ racing events. It tendered for providers of the coverage and IMG was successful. IMG’s proposal did not include any appearances by Mr M and he claimed that he had been directly discriminated against because of his age. 

Mr M was 72 at the time. Mr M was not the only presenter who did not continue to present racing coverage. The other presenters not retained were all over 50. The only presenter retained was Ms Stevenson. She was 42. 

The decision

The employment tribunal concluded that there were sufficient facts (the retention of Ms Stevenson who was 42 and that those dismissed were all over 50) to conclude that Mr M may not have been included in the new line up because of his age. The employment tribunal went on to consider if Channel 4 could objectively justify its decision.  It concluded that it could. Channel 4’s aim was to ‘bring horse racing to a wider audience’ and dismissing Mr M was proportionate. It felt that using Mr M would be counter-productive to the aim due to his ‘strong persona’ and ‘self-described bigoted and male chauvinist views’ which ‘were clearly unpalatable to a wide audience’. 

In practice

This case follows another high profile case against the BBC by Miriam O’Reilly. Unlike Mr M, Ms O’Reilly was successful. The judgment in Mr M’s case is, in our view (and many others), flawed and it may well be that this is not the end of it (whatever people’s thoughts about Mr M and his persona!)  Importantly, the employment tribunal gave no consideration to alternative approaches that may have achieved the legitimate aim relied on by Channel 4. They could have used him a little less, limited his role or instructed him to tone down his onscreen persona and all may well have achieved the aim without the need to remove him.

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