ITV's 'Lapse' in Lord McAlpine Reporting Leads to Apology, OfCom Investigat

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Lord McAlpine, the retired politician who settled with the BBC for £185,000 (close to $300,000) after the British public broadcaster suggested but did not name that he had been guilty of child abuse, is also suing UK outlet ITV, the BBC noted.  As we wrote, the BBC’s Nov. 2 report on child sex abuse led to the resignation of BBC director-general George Entwistle, who called the report in question “so fundamentally wrong,” the “pause” of the BBC investigation program Newsnight, and a Nov. 9 apology.

ITV was brought into the mix when ITV’s Phillip Schofield “handed the prime minister a list of alleged abusers live on the This Morning show on 8 November,” the BBC notedAccording to Digital Spy, the names weren’t “read out.” Because of that , McAlpine is suing ITV, broadcast regulator OfCom is investigating, and ITV said there was “appropriate disciplinary action,” Digital Spy and ITV reported.

ITV’s Schofield said in a Nov. 8 apology, sent to iMediaEthics by ITV’s Mike Large:

“If any viewer was able to identify anyone listed, I would like to apologise and stress that was never my intention.  I was not accusing anyone of anything and it is essential that it is understood that I would never be part of any kind of witch hunt.

“Unfortunately there may have been a misjudged camera angle for a split second as I showed the Prime Minister some information I had obtained from the internet. I asked for his reaction to give him the opportunity to make a point which he very clearly made about the dangers of any witch hunt.”

Large added that an unidentified ITV spokesperson said

“It is extremely regrettable that names may have been very briefly visible as a result of a misjudged camera angle, although most viewers would not have been able to read the list. As Phillip has stressed, the programme was not accusing anyone of anything.”

According to Large’s email to iMediaEthics, “both of these apologies were reflected on air on This Morning on November 9 i.e. the day after the initial broadcast.”

Large noted that ITV “wrote to Lord McAlpine’s lawyers yesterday afternoon in response to a letter we received at the end of last week” and “there is no further update at this time.”

ITV’s director of television Peter Fincham said in a statement that the segment was “a lapse in ITV journalism” and “something we shouldn’t have done.” The Guardian wrote Fincham said Schofield “realises his mistake” and that Fincham is “not happy that this happened.”  ITV reported that one of its spokespeople said

“We have editorial processes and checks in place and, to be honest with you, they weren’t followed, so I’m not happy about that.”

Large also gave iMediaEthics ITV’s Nov. 15 statement about ITV’s investigation into the “mistake” and “disciplinary action.” That statement reads:

“Last Thursday we began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the mistake on that day’s This Morning programme, for which both Phillip Schofield and ITV apologised.  This investigation has now concluded and the appropriate disciplinary action has been taken. We sincerely apologise because the way in which the issue was raised was clearly wrong and should have been handled differently. We have taken steps to make sure our editorial processes are always properly followed, which was not the case in this instance, and to ensure such an error will not be made again.”

“We will not be identifying who has been disciplined, or what that involved.”


OfCom’s Chris Wynn told iMediaEthics by email that 415 complaints were filed “in relation to Phillip Schofield’s conduct on ITV’s This Morning.” iMediaEthics asked if any of those complaints were from McAlpine or his representatives, but Wynn said “in the interests of confidentiality, we are unable to disclose who the complaints are from.”  Wynn added that OfCom tries “to complete investigations within 90 working days” and directed us to OfCom’s letter to Parliament member Rob Wilson about what the investigation will include.

According to that letter, from OfCom’s Director of Standards Tony Close, OfCom found “issues warranting investigation in relation to:

  1. the application of generally accepted standards by ITV and the BBC; and,
  2. the applicaton of standards to prevent unfair treatment to an individual, and unwarranted infringements of privacy.”

The Guardian reported that McAlpine’s lawyer Andrew Reid commented that “Phillip Schofield managed to embarrass the prime minister as a side part and then destroy my client’s reputation” and that it “was very, very low and I am amazing it was allowed.”

iMediaEthics asked McAlpine’s PR representative at Pelham Bell Pottinger how many lawsuits he intends to file as a result of the BBC reporting and what settlement McAlpine would be satisfied with from ITV, but Pelham Bell Pottinger’s James Henderson responded to iMediaEthics by email:

“Many thanks for this but we are unable to comment at this stage.”


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ITV’s ‘Lapse’ in Lord McAlpine Reporting Leads to Apology, OfCom Investigation, Libel Lawsuit

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