UK & World News
McCririck: Channel 4 Urged 'Panto Villain' Act
Horse racing pundit John McCririck has told an employment tribunal that Channel 4 encouraged him to be a "pantomime villain" on air.
Speaking on the first day of the hearing against his former employer, the 73-year-old said he lost his job because of "youth obsessed" bosses.
"There's nobody better around, I have been sacked purely because of my age," he said.
McCririck - known for his jewellery, sideburns and deerstalker hat - was part of Channel 4's racing coverage and also appeared in reality TV shows such as Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap.
He was dropped last year when the station unveiled a new presenting team headed by Clare Balding.
McCririck later announced his plans to sue Channel 4, as well as production company IMG Media Limited, for £3m.
Speaking after this morning's brief hearing, McCririck, accompanied by wife Jenny, claimed the decision to axe him had been made by "ruthless, tough people".
"We have got anonymous suits and skirts who come into any company, they make their decisions, unattributable, unchallenged, they decide the future of people and no-one can answer against them," he said.
"It's an age thing - they use the word 'freshen up'. 'Freshen up' is a euphemism for kicking out older people."
He also said his apparent sexism was part of a pantomime role he had been encouraged to continue, especially on reality TV shows.
"All the Big Brothers etc, it's a pantomime," he said.
"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."
McCririck denied he was "anti-women", saying if anyone he had given a nickname to on air had asked him not to, he would have stopped.
"It's a very public school thing, it's a bit immature but it lightens up the programme," he said.
"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'.
"If the producer had said 'Don't wave your arms around', fine, I would not have. They never, ever spoke to me once."
McCririck said losing his job left him depressed and reduced to watching daytime TV.
"It is awful. For over 50 years I have worked every single day, never been late for a job, never missed a day's work," he said.
"Now suddenly the phone doesn't ring anymore. I don't want pity. There are more than two million people in Britain who want jobs but can't get them. I'm one of many."
A Channel 4 spokesman said: "We are grateful to John McCririck for his contribution towards Channel 4 Racing over many years.
"However we reject the suggestion that discrimination on the basis of age played any part in the decision not to include John in the Channel 4 Racing team from 2013 and we are vigorously defending this claim."
The case, in central London, was adjourned until tomorrow morning while its panel of judges reads witness statements and watches clips of McCririck's appearances .
The tribunal will reconvene at 10am on Tuesday and is expected to last up to seven days.