ITV has instructed a barrister to carry out an external review of the facts following Phillip Schofield’s departure from This Morning and subsequent press statements, chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall has said in a letter seen by Politicalite.
The letter was sent to culture secretary Lucy Frazer, DCMS Committee chair Dame Caroline Dinenage and Ofcom’s chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes, in the wake of Schofield’s departure from ITV last week.
Schofield, 61, resigned from the broadcaster on Friday and was dropped by his talent agency YMU after admitting to an “unwise but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague.
The letter mentions the “significant media coverage concerning Phillip Schofield” and adds that: “As you would expect we take the matter extremely seriously and have reviewed our own records over the weekend.”
It says that ITV records show that “when rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate in late 2019/early 2020 ITV investigated.”
“Both parties were questioned then and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours, as did Phillip’s then agency YMU.”
“In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on the This Morning and wider Daytime team and were not provided with, and did not find any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour.
“Given the ongoing rumours, we continued to ask questions of both parties, who both continued to deny the rumours, including as recently as this month.”
The letter goes on to state out facts, following what Dame Carolyn says has been “a lot of inaccuracy” in reporting and she added the former employee Schofield admitted to an affair with has been offered support throughout.
It said: “The ITV employee was aged 19 when he first did work experience at This Morning in 2015 and 20 years old when he applied and succeeded in securing a job as a runner on the show.
“He subsequently applied for and was successful in securing a promotion to Loose Women in 2019. He left ITV in 2021. As you would imagine given the social media scrutiny of him, we have offered him our support throughout this period and indeed are still doing so.
“The employee has made it clear that he does not wish to be named or identified in connection with this matter. We would be grateful if you would be mindful of this.”
ITV bosses are expected to appear before MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, where Schofield’s conduct could be raised.
The session is expected to focus on scrutiny of the forthcoming Media Bill, with SNP MP John Nicolson – a committee member – writing on Twitter: “The issues erupting around ITV have been a cause for concern.
“I look forward to getting some answers from ITV bosses.”
The letter says ITV has instructed Jane Mulcahy KC, of Blackstone Chambers, to “carry out an external review to establish the facts”.
“She will review our records and talk to people involved. This work will also consider our relevant processes and policies and whether we need to change or strengthen any,” the letter said.
Since Schofield’s resignation, This Morning has been plagued by allegations of “toxicity”.
The show’s former resident doctor, Dr Ranj Singh, has hit out at the show’s “toxic” culture, saying he raised concerns about “bullying and discrimination” two years ago when he worked there – and afterwards felt like he was “managed out” for whistleblowing.
In the letter, ITV said that an external review conducted following a complaint made by Dr Ranj found “no evidence of bullying or discrimination”.
“There have also been wider stories about This Morning including about a former This Morning presenter Dr Ranj,” the letter said.
“We were sorry to read his statement. We are fully committed to providing every opportunity for anyone who works with us to raise any concern or comments they may have.
“Following a complaint made by Dr Ranj, we appointed an external and independent adviser to carry out a review. This external review found no evidence of bullying or discrimination.”
Schofield’s relationship took place while the TV star was still married to wife Stephanie Lowe and before he came out publicly as gay.
In a statement on Friday last week, he said he was “deeply sorry” for “having lied to them (the Daily Mail), and to many others about a relationship that I had with someone working on This Morning. I did have a consensual on-off relationship with a younger male colleague at This Morning”.
He said: “Contrary to speculation, whilst I met the man when he was a teenager and was asked to help him to get into television, it was only after he started to work on the show that it became more than just a friendship.
“That relationship was unwise, but not illegal. It is now over.”
His statement added: “I am painfully conscious that I have lied to my employers at ITV, to my colleagues and friends, to my agents, to the media and therefore the public, and most importantly of all to my family.
“I am so very, very sorry, as I am for having been unfaithful to my wife.”
Schofield had presented This Morning since 2002, with Willoughby joining the programme in 2009.
The pair’s friendly relationship and informal nature on the programme resulted in viral segments and industry recognition, including multiple National Television Awards.
Willoughby is due to return to the show on Monday after the half-term break, having taken an early holiday after news of Schofield’s departure emerged.
Her former colleague, Eamonn Holmes, told GB News she should follow Schofield “out the door” of the show.
However, on Wednesday, a source told The Sun: “She has made it clear she was one of the people Phil lied to and she has nothing to hide.
“She will return to This Morning as planned on Monday and carry on like the professional she is.”