Following Phillip Schofield’s dramatic exit from This Morning, ITV bosses are now set to face questions from MPs.
The broadcaster’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall will appear at a parliamentary committee this morning to answer questions about its approach to safeguarding and handling complaints.
Kevin Lygo, ITV’s managing director for media and entertainment, and Kyla Mullins, the channel’s general counsel and company secretary, will also give evidence.
Schofield admitted an “unwise but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague, after weeks of speculation about a feud with his This Morning co-presenter Holly Willoughby.
The 61-year-old later clarified in an interview that the colleague was 20 when the relationship started, but they first met when the younger man was 15.
Given they were both consenting adults at the time Schofield says the relationship began, some have criticized the inquiry and the headlines the presenter’s departure from ITV has generated. Writing for The Times, presenter Jeremy Clarkson questioned the “berserk” response, saying Schofield is “only guilty of being what he said he was: gay”.
But the admission has raised concerns about the imbalance of power and prompted questions about how much ITV knew about the relationship – Schofield has insisted that neither bosses nor Willoughby was aware.
Following Schofield’s admission of the affair, ITV said it investigated “rumors of a relationship” involving a younger employee – but the pair “categorically and repeatedly denied” the affair.
This was around the time the presenter, who has been married to his wife Stephanie Lowe since 1993, came out as gay with an announcement on This Morning, supported by Willoughby, in 2020.
In a statement, ITV said both Schofield and the male colleague were questioned in 2020 but both denied the “rumors”, as did the star’s agency, YMU – who have now dropped him.
The statement said:
“In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on This Morning and were not provided with, and did not find, any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumor”.The statement
It went on to say, Schofield:
“Lied to people at ITV, from senior management to fellow presenters, to YMU, to the media, and to others”.The statement
However, former This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes has accused the broadcaster of a “total cover-up”.
When asked if mistakes were made in their 2020 investigation, Mr. Lygo replied:
“No”.Mr. Kevin Lygo
MPs want to know whether senior executives knew about Schofield’s relationship
Dame Carolyn became the first female boss of ITV at the end of 2017, moving to the broadcaster after leaving her role as chief executive of the EasyJet airline. Before that, she ran the Guardian Media Group.
She was awarded her damehood in 2016 for services to the airline industry.
Dame Carolyn has overseen ITV during a difficult period that has included Piers Morgan quitting Good Morning Britain, the axing of The Jeremy Kyle Show, and the suicides of two Love Island contestants and the show’s presenter Caroline Flack.
Following the fallout from Schofield’s affair admission, she instructed a barrister to carry out an external review of the facts surrounding the relationship.
Dame Carolyn, Mr. Lygo, and Ms. Mullins will appear before the CMS committee to answer questions about the scandal.
MPs will want to know whether senior executives knew about the relationship, and how the younger colleague came to get the job on This Morning in the first place.
Were there systems in place to protect young members of staff from any potential manipulation or abuse of power from those higher up?
What were the circumstances surrounding the younger colleague’s move to Loose Women and, later on, his departure from ITV?
Whatever happens, Dame Caroline has assured the questioning won’t be a “witch hunt” against Schofield.
However, when asked if she had concerns about ITV’s handling of the situation, she said:
“The fact is that these big public service broadcasters have these gods of television, these incredibly powerful and successful celebrities who do have incredible influence and power, and my committee want to make sure that there are the right workplace practices in place, the right duty of care over junior staff members.
“They (celebrities) do have the potential power over other people’s careers, and we want to ensure that everything is in place that prevents that being abused in any way”.Dame Carolyn
The hearing is due to begin at 10 am.