Phillip Schofield: ITV defends duty of care to staff at ‘toxic’ This Morning

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An ITV executive has defended the network’s duty of care to staff after the furore over Phillip Schofield’s affair with a much younger colleague.

The This Morning host left ITV last month after admitting he lied to bosses and workmates about the affair.

There have also been allegations of a wider “toxic” culture at the programme.

Magnus Brooke, ITV’s director of strategy, policy and regulation, told MPs bullying was “unacceptable” and would be “dealt with appropriately”.

“There’s a very sophisticated and a significant system of safeguarding and duty of care at ITV with a very significant set of policies,” Mr Brooke told a House of Commons committee on Tuesday.

“We have a code of conduct, which sets out our expectations about how people behave, and that deals with a number of different issues, from equal opportunities to respect to work, dignity and understanding.

“We then have an important set of requirements, which hold people to account internally.”

However, SNP MP John Nicolson told Mr Brooke he had spoken to whistleblowers at ITV, and that it “seems like a very unhappy place”.

Mr Nicolson also referred to remarks about aubergines by This Morning editor Martin Frizell in response to a question from Sky News about whether there was a “toxic” environment on the show.

‘Extremely ill-judged’

Mr Frizell told the reporter: “I’ll tell you what’s toxic and I’ve always found it toxic. Aubergine. Do you like aubergine?”

Mr Nicolson described those comments as “surreal and bizarre”, adding: “I wouldn’t like to be a young staffer going in talking to that editor about bullying given that that’s the way he treats the subject matter on camera in public.”

Referring to the aubergine remarks, Mr Brooke accepted it was “extremely ill-judged to say what he did”.

“But I can reassure you on behalf of ITV that we do take all of these allegations very seriously, precisely because we do have a culture in which people’s conduct matters enormously to us,” he added.

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The broadcaster last week announced it had asked a barrister, Jane Mulcahy KC, into its handling of the relationship between Schofield and his colleague – who he met at the age of 15 and helped to get into the industry.

Mr Brooke suggested the move demonstrated that the network “takes these issues very seriously”.

He said he hoped the review “establishes the facts” and “gets to the bottom of what’s happened”.

He also told Parliament’s culture, media and sport committee: “Bullying is absolutely a breach of our code of conduct is very clearly set out and we have a set of policies around bullying and harassment at work, and clearly it’s unacceptable.

“If we find bullying, it’s inconsistent with our policy, we’d expect people to report it and we’d expect it to be dealt with appropriately.”

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Speaking to the BBC last week, Schofield denied there was a toxic environment on This Morning, as well as claims that he had become too powerful or was unpleasant to work with. “I’m not rude on the studio floor, I don’t bully people,” he said.

That came after Dr Ranj Singh, who worked on This Morning for a decade, criticised the “toxic” culture at the programme.

He said the issues “go far beyond” Schofield and that he took his concerns “directly to the top of ITV”, but found the subsequent process “pretty heart-breaking”.

ITV has said that after Dr Ranj’s complaint, an external review “found no evidence of bullying or discrimination”.

Former This Morning co-host Eamonn Holmes has also accused Schofield of “toxicity”.

The broadcaster’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall will discuss the matter when she appears in front of the same committee next week.

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