Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Is Britain finally no country and Channel 4 no tv station for an old racing pundit called John McCririck ?

The 73 year old John was dropped from the Channel 4 tv's racing team at the turn of the year. He was not a happy man having  worked for the Company for 29 years and is seeking £3million in damages for unfair dismissal.

His case is now being heard at an industrial tribunal in London.

He :

* maintains that he had been dismissed solely because of his age saying : "It's an age thing, they use the word 'freshen up'. Freshen up is a euphemism for kicking out older people. 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."

* quoted a line by the former home secretary David Blunkett who said that TV executives "worship the cult of youth".

The Tribunal began on Monday with its panel of judges reading witness statements and watching clips of John's racing coverage as well as reality tv shows such as 'Celebrity Big Brother' ( right) and 'Celebrity Wife Swap' :
 In these

* says the judges would find provocative statements, some sexist and maintains  they were part of a role he played, especially on 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. All this is a pantomime villain thing that Channel 4 encouraged."

* said he was not 'anti-women' and if anyone to whom he had given a nickname during his time on air had asked him to desist, he would have stopped, describing 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.'"

* admitted there had been plenty of complaints to Channel 4 about his behaviour and accepted descriptions of him as ‘nasty, revolting, rude’, ‘boorish’ and ‘obnoxious and sexist’, but said: "I was fully aware Channel 4 approved of it because they kept on having me on their programmes."

insisted he had called for more women presenters on 'Channel 4 Racing', despite once describing one of them as the "lay of the day" live on air and nicknaming others the "saucy minx" and "the pouty heiress".

Channel 4 have said at the Tribunal that :

* John had been warned that his forays into reality TV, including 'Celebrity Big Brother', were harming his journalistic career.

*  through Jamie Aitchison, Commissioning Editor for Sport, that his "exaggerated tone" was "out of step" with the Channel's coverage and he was "seen by many as a comic act rather than a serious horse racing journalist," and the decision to drop him was "entirely unrelated to his age".

John's dismissal has no doubt been contextualised by the fact that he :

 * was thrown off Alan Titchmarsh’s ITV show for making rude comments to Ingrid Tarrant about her relationship with her then estranged husband Chris Tarrant.
* refers to his wife Jenny, who was supporting him at the hearing, as "The Booby", because she was "not very bright, squawks a lot and was easy to catch".

On balance, I agree with Jamie. I think it was time for John to go. In fact, I am only surprised that, with attitudes more akin to men in 1913 rather than 2013, he lasted so long.

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