Phillip Schofield: ITV chief to face MP questions over This Morning saga - after announcing external review
In a letter to regulators, ITV's chief executive said the former employee Schofield admitted having an affair with has been offered support by that station
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ITV's chief executive has been asked to face questions from MPs on the This Morning saga, just a day after the beleaguered broadcaster hired a lawyer for an external review into its handling of former host's Phillip Schofield’s sudden departure.
Veteran This Morning host Schofield, 61, quit both his role as presenter on This Morning and departed from ITV after admitting an affair with a younger colleague on Friday (26 May). He presented his final episode on 18 May - after months of tabloid speculation about tensions in the team.
ITV's plan is for co-host Holly Willoughby to continue the show when she returns from leave, although its future has been cast into serious doubt, after allegations of a "toxic culture" behind the scenes emerged.
Now station chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall has been asked to face questions from MPs on the This Morning row, at a session of the Culture, Media and Sport committee on 14 June. In a letter - to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, regulator Ofcom, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - on Wednesday night (31 May), she announced an external review.
Dame McCall's letter said: “You will have seen the significant media coverage concerning Phillip Schofield. As you would expect we take the matter extremely seriously and have reviewed our own records over the weekend."
She said ITV's records showed "that when rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate in late 2019/early 2020 ITV investigated".
“Both parties were questioned then and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours, as did Phillip’s then agency YMU," she continued. "In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on the This Morning and wider Daytime team and were not provided with, and did not find any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour.
"Given the ongoing rumours, we continued to ask questions of both parties, who both continued to deny the rumours, including as recently as this month. There has been a lot of inaccuracy in the reporting so I thought it would be useful to set out some facts," she said.
Dame McCall said the employee Phillip Schofield admitted to having an affair with has been offered support in the wake of his admission. “The ITV employee was aged 19 when he first did work experience at This Morning in 2015 and 20 years old when he applied and succeeded in securing a job as a runner on the show. He subsequently applied for and was successful in securing a promotion to Loose Women in 2019. He left ITV in 2021.
“As you would imagine given the social media scrutiny of him, we have offered him our support throughout this period and indeed are still doing so. The employee has made it clear that he does not wish to be named or identified in connection with this matter. We would be grateful if you would be mindful of this," she continued.
“The relationships we have with those we work with are based on trust. Phillip made assurances to us and his agency which he now acknowledges were untrue and we feel badly let down. We consider our approach was reasonable and proportionate at the time and in the circumstances. We believe that we did not have any grounds to mount any other sort of investigation.”
Dame McCall's letter also referenced fresh allegations of a "toxic culture" on This Morning, by former host Dr Ranj. She said they were "sorry" to read his statement at ITV.
Following a complaint from Dr Rang at the time, ITV had also had an external review carried out, which found no evidence of bullying or discrimination, she said. "I want to reassure you that as a producer and broadcaster, ITV takes its responsibilities around duty of care and speaking up seriously and has robust and well-established processes in place which allow anyone who works with us to raise concerns they may have anonymously."
The company has now now instructed Jane Mulcahy KC to carry out an external review to establish the facts. Dame McCall said she will review their records and talk to people involved, while considering ITV's processes and policies "and whether we need to change or strengthen any".
“Given Phillip’s admission of the extent of his deception the work will extend to cover any related issues that may emerge. This work will be carried out as quickly as possible and we will be happy to share the outcome," she told regulators.