John McCririck tribunal: Channel 4's programming boss Jay Hunt denies age discrimination accusation


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The Independent Online

Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s programming boss, has denied a claim by John McCririck that she is a “serial age discrimination offender” and accused the racing pundit of making “false allegations” about her treatment of older presenters.

McCririck, 79, has launched a £3 million age discrimination claim against Channel 4, which axed him from its racing coverage after 29 years.

However Ms Hunt told the tribunal that she felt there was “no correlation” between younger presenters drawing younger audiences.

In a statement at the hearing, she said: “John McCririck's allegation that I am a 'serial age discrimination offender' is untrue.”

Ms Hunt said she had instigated voluntary training courses on discrimination at Channel 4 after she joined from the BBC, adding that she had “learned her lesson” from the Miriam O'Reilly case.

The presenter, who was in her 50s when she was dropped from the Countryfile programme, won an age discrimination case against the BBC. Ms Hunt was BBC1 Controller at the time.

Ms Hunt also said that she had no involvement in the decision of Moira Stuart to leave the BBC while she was Controller of Daytime.

Ms Hunt said: “I have been responsible for a channel or part of a channel for the past eight years. In that time, hundreds of on-screen talent decisions have been run past me by those making them.

"Only one of those decisions has ever led to a claim of age discrimination and, contrary to what John McCririck says, I have learnt from that case."

She added: “I had no reason to believe that anyone in the team which worked up the new programme had acted on the grounds of John McCririck's age, and that remains the position.”

A senior television producer told the tribunal that the controversial McCririck was dropped from the revamped Channel 4 racing line-up, because his “pantomime” presenting style was a distraction.

Carl Hicks, the IMG production company's executive producer of Channel 4 Racing, said: “He was not appropriate and there was not an appropriate role for him.”

As IMG was looking at potential on-screen talent, Mr Hicks joked that they were on the verge of "putting forward the poshest team in racing".

Channel 4 Racing's presenting duo includes Clare Balding, who had childhood links to the Queen, and Nick Luck who went to Harrow, he told the tribunal.

Francesca Cumani, daughter of Newmarket trainer Luca, was also mentioned and she was "quite upmarket and could also be seen as quite posh", according to Mr Hicks.

Channel 4 and IMG deny the age discrimination claims.