Ofcom has condemned ITV's This Morning and presenter Philip Schofield for a failure of standards after an incident in which he ‘Googled’ a list of suspected political paedophiles before ambushing Prime Minister David Cameron live on air.
An adjudication from the broadcasting watchdog today revealed that the This Morning presenter spent two hours the night before the show on 8 November 2012 looking on the web for names in advance of the programme.
Less than an hour before the show was due to be broadcast, Schofield revealed his plan to ambush the Prime Minister with a list of names. However, according to the Ofcom investigation the editorial team did not seek legal advice before the broadcast.
In a statement to Ofcom, ITV admitted that Schofield undertook his own research on the internet into the child sex abuse scandal.
An Ofcom report into the scandal released today said: “A brief search on Google revealed various articles, blogs and posts repeatedly naming a number of senior political figures alleged to have been connected with child abuse. ITV said that Mr Schofield had spent approximately two hours reading this material.”
The report continued: “Mr Schofield formulated the idea, in the context of discussing the prospect of an overarching inquiry into the various child abuse scandals, of handing the Prime Minister a list of the individuals that he had repeatedly seen named online, to illustrate the fact that there was widespread speculation on the internet about these individuals, and to ask the Prime Minister for his view about it.”
ITV said there had never been any intention to show the names live on camera.
The station admitted there had been several failures of editorial standards and misjudgements that allowed the segment to go ahead.
The station said it had been “a collective mistake” of the editorial team as a whole.
Moments before the segment went on air, Schofield rewrote the list of names in his own handwriting as he thought the printed copy, with the title “Names for Cameron”, was disrespectful to the Prime Minister. This list was momentarily visible to TV viewers as Schofield held it in his hand.
In its findings, Ofcom found that ITV had breached Rule 2.1 and 7.1 of the Broadcasting Code.
While Ofcom accepted ITV’s position that the broadcast of the list was inadvertent and unintentional, Ofcom considered that the potential harm to anyone who was potentially identifiable on the list was significant, and that the fact that such an error of judgement took place in relation to such serious and significant allegation was indicative of the failure of adequate preparation and compliance of the programme in general to ensure that it did not breach the requirements of the Broadcasting Code.
For this reason, Ofcom took the view that ITV had failed in its obligation to ensure that generally accepted standards were applied to the content of this particular edition of This Morning and had not provided adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion of harmful material.
In November, ITV agreed to pay Lord McAlpine £125,000 in damages over the mistake.
Ofcom has not fined ITV and the channel will not be required to read out the adjudication on air.