ITV chief faces unwelcome distraction with Phillip Schofield scandal

After half a decade on the helm of ITV, chief govt Carolyn McCall’s tenure might but be outlined by a grilling by MPs in an nameless committee room in Westminster.

Every week after Phillip Schofield, one of many broadcaster’s greatest stars, resigned from the community — admitting he had “lied” to ITV bosses, his brokers and the media about what he described as an “unwise, however not unlawful” affair with a youthful male colleague — the scandal is elevating uncomfortable questions for administration about practices surrounding safeguarding and complaints.

In a letter on Wednesday, McCall sought to reassure the tradition choose committee head, media regulator Ofcom and the tradition secretary that ITV was taking the matter “extraordinarily significantly”, saying that the community had launched an exterior overview led by a high barrister.

The disaster is an unwelcome distraction in McCall’s efforts to show around the struggling broadcaster, which has turn out to be a logo of the decline of linear TV. Though the group’s share value is simply down about 2 per cent over the previous 5 days, it has dropped practically 60 per cent throughout her tenure and final yr the broadcaster was ejected from the FTSE 100 index.

A raft of present and former stars and executives, together with McCall herself, in addition to Schofield, the younger producer who has since left ITV and different workers from the present This Morning can be quizzed as a part of the overview performed by Jane Mulcahy KC.

Though McCall argued within the letter that ITV had taken “affordable and proportionate” actions to analyze the affair when on-line rumours first started circulating in 2019, tradition choose committee chair Caroline Dinenage stated the episode raised “basic points” about safeguarding and grievance dealing with on the community and throughout the media.

Dinenage informed the Monetary Occasions that McCall’s letter confirmed ITV was “lastly starting to take this very significantly” however added that it “nearly posed extra questions than it solutions”, together with failing to stipulate the “phrases of reference” and timeline of the overview.

Caroline Dinenage, chair of the tradition choose committee, says ‘basic points’ about safeguarding have been raised © Dominic Lipinski/PA

In an interview with the BBC on Friday, Schofield, who introduced in 2020 that he’s homosexual and had separated from his spouse, denied that he took out a super-injunction to suppress media protection or that the youthful colleague was pressured to signal a non-disclosure settlement. He additionally denied utilizing vehicles paid for by ITV to ferry the person to his London house.

Regardless of the scandal having been splashed throughout the entrance pages of the UK press most days this week, buyers seem sanguine.

“I don’t suppose shareholders are worrying concerning the Schofield information,” stated a top-15 investor. “There are way more essential issues driving the share value.”

In an try to wean ITV off the declining broadcasting mannequin, McCall has managed to extend annual revenues from manufacturing arm ITV Studios from about £1.6bn to £2.1bn throughout her tenure, making the unit account for nearly half of group revenues. However a lot of her status can be staked on the success of the broadcaster’s revamped streaming service ITVX, which launched in December at an preliminary price of £225mn.

“There’s a variety of noise about this example however until there may be proof of administration wrongdoing . . . then the present state of affairs is unlikely to have any influence on shareholder help for the board and the CEO,” the top-15 shareholder stated.

A top-10 investor stated the Schofield debacle was among the many points “that come and go, the place channels lose their anchor individual”.

Phillip Schofield throughout an interview this week © BBC/PA

However former and present ITV executives and expertise stated the Schofield case might a minimum of distract from, or at worst derail, McCall’s makes an attempt to show around the broadcaster within the streaming period.

“Finally Schofield’s affair will not be essential . . . in case you screwed up the dealing with of it, you’d be in hassle, however Carolyn hasn’t screwed it up,” stated one senior trade determine. Even when the exterior overview criticises administration, “they’ll must take it on the chin however you don’t resign about that”, he added. “You simply say: ‘We’ll tighten it up’.”

Nevertheless some former high-ranking ITV workers are much less constructive. “I feel she’s toast,” stated one. “She’s run out of concepts . . . I don’t suppose anybody seems at ITV and thinks they actually know what they’re doing and that’s on her. For those who’re on the lookout for an excuse as buyers to pressure change, this appears to be the plain second.”

Individuals near the broadcaster insist that McCall’s job doesn’t contain managing high-profile expertise. That accountability as a substitute falls underneath the remit of Kevin Lygo, the pinnacle of ITV’s media and leisure division, and Emma Gormley, who oversees the broadcaster’s daytime TV output, they added.

McCall’s tenure has been marred by a number of high-profile controversies surrounding on-air expertise. She needed to reply questions from MPs following the dying by suicide of Love Island host Caroline Flack and three former contestants. She additionally needed to deal with Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan’s tempestuous departure from the present and she or he cancelled the Jeremy Kyle Present after a decade on the air after a visitor died by suicide.

“There are a variety of large egos with an axe to grind with Carolyn,” stated the senior trade determine.

Morgan took to Twitter earlier this week to query the “veracity of ITV administration denials” in gentle of the circumstances round his departure, and former This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes stated in a TV interview that “these in authority [at ITV] needed to know” concerning the Schofield affair.

Pedestrians cross a footbridge heading to ITV studios
Carolyn McCall’s tenure at ITV has been marred by a number of high-profile controversies surrounding on-air expertise © Paul Thomas/Bloomberg

McCall defended ITV’s procedures to safeguard workers, deal with complaints and allow nameless whistleblowing in her letter on Wednesday, saying these have been “strong and properly established”.

Conor O’Shea, media analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, stated McCall could be “entrance and centre” in coping with the scandal to “keep away from any toxicity spreading to advertisers about the entire thing”.

However he added that promoting outdoors the primetime hours between 7pm and 11pm doubtless accounted for at most a 3rd of ITV’s £1.5bn in yearly revenues from TV-related promoting. The contract of This Morning’s most important sponsor Arnold Clark, a automobile retailer, will lapse as deliberate later this yr.

This Morning pulled in an viewers of solely about 650,000 viewers a day within the newest week of information compiled by the Broadcasters’ Viewers Analysis Board.

“There’s much more to ITV than This Morning however the vital factor is, will the boat stabilise and can the audiences stick,” stated media analyst Alice Enders. “No matter occurs, there’s a demand for that type of format — whether or not it’s referred to as This Morning or changed with one thing else.”

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