Schofield and Newsnight face Ofcom probes over child abuse mistakes

Ofcom today confirmed it has launched investigations into a Newsnight report linking a senior Tory to child sex allegations and a blunder by ITV’s This Morning that saw host Phillip Schofield disclose a list of alleged paedophiles to Prime Minister David Cameron.

The 2 November report by Newsnight led directly to the resignation of BBC director-general George Entwistle after the programme mistakenly linked a senior Conservative politician from the Thatcher era - wrongly named elsewhere as Lord McAlpine -  to an allegation of child sex abuse at a North Wales Care Home.

This morning McAlpine’s solicitors revealed they were close to reaching a settlement with the BBC, but that they also intended to go after every individual who linked him on Twitter to the allegations.

ITV’s This Morning was forced to apologise after presenter Phillip Schofield showed a list of alleged paedophiles to Cameron during a live interview which was briefly exposed on screen.

He admitted putting the list together after trawling the internet.

Rob Wilson, a Conservative MP, reported the ITV1 programme to Ofcom and urged it to investigate whether ITV had breached its duty to give individuals a chance to respond before subjecting them to serious allegations on-screen.

Today Ofcom said it had launched two new broadcast investigations. It said both programmes raised issues warranting investigation in relation to:

1)   The application of generally accepted standards by ITV and the BBC; and,

2)   The application of standards to prevent unfair treatment to an individual, and unwarranted infringements of privacy. 

It added:

Ofcom has general duties under section 3 of the Communications Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”) to (among other things) secure the application, in the case of all television and radio services, of:

1)     standards that provide adequate protection to members of the public from the inclusion of offensive and harmful material in such services (Section 3(2)(e) of the 2003 Act); and

2)     standards that provide adequate protection to members of the public and to all other persons from both (i) unfair treatment in programmes included in such services; and (ii) unwarranted infringements of privacy resulting from activities carried on for the purposes of such services (Section 3(2)(f) of the 2003 Act).

Therefore, Ofcom has begun investigations into whether the BBC and ITV maintained appropriate standards and ensured that these programmes complied with Rules 2.1, 7.1 and 8.1 (and the relevant “Practices to be followed”) of the Code.

The Guardian, meanwhile, reports that ITV has “reprimanded” Schofield and three members of the show's production staff

In a statement it said: “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.”

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