The chair of parliament’s media committee has insisted a grilling of ITV’s boss in front of MPs next week won’t be a “witch hunt” against former presenter Philip Schofield.
Dame Caroline Dinenage told Sky News the purpose of the meeting was to ask wider questions about workplace culture and practices in the wake of his resignation over an affair with a younger employee.
The DCMS committee (Department of Media, Culture and Sport) is already set to question ITV, alongside executives from Channel 4 and Channel 5, about the draft Media Bill today.
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Dame Caroline said she was “very concerned that the whole thing would be dominated by questions about This Morning” so invited ITV chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall to a separate meeting in front of MPs next Wednesday.
The Conservative MP added: “I don’t want this to be a witch hunt about Phillip Schofield. For us, it’s about the workplace practices, about the systems and processes that are in place to protect staff members within ITV and other public service broadcasters.”
Asked if she was concerned the processes were not satisfactory, Dame Caroline 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”.
Schofield, 61, has admitted to an “unwise but not illegal” relationship with a younger male colleague and stepped down from his roles with ITV. He was also dropped by talent agency YMU.
He has since insisted he “did not” groom the man, who also worked on the show, and who the presenter said was 20 years old when their relationship began.
Dame Caroline said another purpose of the DCMS committee questioning was to ask about whistleblowing practices as “in this particular case, we know that on more than one occasion emails were sent to the boss of ITV, drawing attention to this particular situation”.
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However, she stressed: “I’m really keen that it doesn’t get boiled down too much to individuals. I think all public service broadcasters can learn from this.”
She added that she was “worried” for Schofield, who has admitted having suicidal thoughts since the scandal broke and likened his situation to what Caroline Flack faced before her death.
Schofield’s affair took place while the television star was still married to wife Stephanie Lowe, and before he came out publicly as gay in 2020.
He had denied having a relationship with a colleague when questioned by ITV about rumours in early 2020.
ITV has since announced an external review of the saga led by a barrister.