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Channel 4 did not discriminate against John McCririck

18th December, 2013

The recent case of McCririck v Channel 4 Television Corporation ET/2200478/2013 in which it was held that Channel 4 had not directly discriminated against Mr McCririck on the ground of his age, has attracted much media attention due to the high-profile claimant involved.

During his long television career, spanning over 30 years, Mr McCririck had become well known for presenting horse racing on Channel 4, along with appearing on various reality shows, his unique dress sense and controversial presentation style.

Since 2008, Channel 4 gradually decreased Mr McCririck’s presenting days until September 2012 when they received results of a survey which found that Mr McCririck was rather unpopular with the public, in comparison to various other television presenters also included in the survey. Channel 4 then removed Mr McCririck, at the time aged 72, from their broadcast of horse racing. It is notable that they did however, retain Ms Stevenson who was aged 42.

Mr McCririck brought a claim for direct age discrimination, however he could not bring an unfair dismissal claim as he was not an employee of Channel 4.

Under section 13(1) of the Equality Act 2010, direct age discrimination occurs where, because of age, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others. 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 (section 13(2), Equality Act 2010). In a discrimination claim, the initial burden of proof rests with the claimant to prove a prima facie case of discrimination which the respondent then has to defend.

In this case, the Tribunal decided that the burden of proof had shifted to Channel 4 as Mr McCririck’s contract was terminated, whilst Ms Stevenson was retained and all of the presenters whose contracts were terminated during the same process were over the age of 50.

The passing of the burden of proof onto Channel 4 did not help Mr McCririck in this case and in dismissing his claim, it was held that Mr McCririck had not been directly discriminated against. The Tribunal could not find that Channel 4 had removed Mr McCririck due to his age and as such moved on to question whether Channel 4’s treatment could be described as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Channel 4 asserted that their aim was to attract a wider audience to horse racing, which was held to be a legitimate aim and it was also held that Channel 4’s actions were a proportionate means of achieving that aim.

For further information and advice in relation to age discrimination, please contact Claire Brook on 01244 405575 or send an email to [email protected].

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