Racing pundit John McCririck was dropped because he was 'unappealing and irritating', tribunal told

Senior executive says commentator's 'exaggerated tone' had become out of step with Channel 4's coverage

The controversial pundit John McCririck was dropped from Channel 4's horse racing programmes because he was "unappealing and irritating" to viewers, not because of his age, a senior executive at the broadcaster has claimed.

Jamie Aitchison, commissioning editor for sport, told a tribunal that the commentator's "exaggerated tone" had become "out of step" with the channel's coverage and his boorish manner offended members of the audience.

McCririck, 73, who launched a £3 million age discrimination claim against his former employers, argued that his image as a bigot and a sexist went "side-by-side" with his career as a serious journalist.

But Mr Aitchison told the tribunal that when the Channel 4 won the rights to "crown jewel" events including the Grand National and Royal Ascot in 2012, a change was required to the broadcaster's presentation which had become too "niche".

"Channel 4 set out to create a tone that was a little more serious, measured and inclusive," Mr Aitchison said. McCririck was "seen by many as a comic act rather than a serious horse racing journalist," he added.

The pundit's "exaggerated tone and style and propensity to offend was out of step with the vision for the programme, and also unappealing and irritating to many current and potential viewers."

He added that the decision to drop him from the line-up last year was taken for "legitimate and justified reasons."

Channel 4 set out to create a tone that was "a little more serious, measured and inclusive."

Citing press coverage, audience surveys and viewer complaints about McCririck, Mr Aitchison, who has worked previously as a producer on BBC and ITV sports shows, rejected the claim that he was sacked because of his age. The decision was taken on "merit" alone.

Mr Aitchison also said McCririck's idiosyncratic style and starring role on Celebrity Big Brother did not fit with the new format of the show.

In his witness statement he said: "His over-exaggerated gestures and facial expressions to camera alongside occasional extreme views on often controversial subject riled viewers and colleagues alike.

"John's nicknames for women contributed to a wider reputation he established for among sexist comments and other bizarre behaviour through his appearances on reality television programmes."

He said McCririck liked the limelight so much that he hogged the camera when he was on Channel 4 Racing, putting himself before his co-presenters. "He tried to maximise his time on screen and therefore limiting that of others, particularly Tanya Stevenson, the betting pundit he worked with," he said.

Ms Eady asked Mr Aitchison if he had ever told him to change his broadcasting style to fit in with Channel 4 Racing's vision, like waving around his arms less or dressing differently.

The executive replied that if McCririck had changed any of those famous characteristics, he would lose his identity. "If you chopped off John McCririck's arms to stop him doing tic-tac, he wouldn't be John McCririck," he said.

McCririck had told the hearing that his appearances as a "pantomime villain" on reality TV shows did not reduce his "gravitas" and denied that they damaged the image of horse racing.

The Conservative MP Philip Davies appeared as a character witness for McCririck. "I can't think of anybody who is more on top of his game, nor suitable for the role," the MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire told the tribunal.

Davies, who sits on the Culture Select Committee, acknowledged he had previously criticised Channel 4 for "being too politically correct".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there