Tasteless, silly outrageous stunt

Last week on Facebook I was publicly told off when I referred to television ‘celebrity’, Phillip Schofield as a ‘total idiot’, ‘singularly annoying’, with a ‘squeaky’ voice. I also said Schofield was akin to being untouchable in certain quarters of the Devon ‘media clique’.

In a free society something we are all entitled to an opinion without being rude or obscene – or at least so I thought.

I was talking about the ITV presenter who, on live television, handed the prime minister a list of names Schofield said were being mentioned online as alleged paedophiles.

It was suggested that if I had some knowledge of broadcasting I would know that Schofield who is apparently “very intelligent with a good knowledge of a wide range of subjects” was “told what to do by his producer”.

I am not prepared to defend my media knowledge and experience after a life in this business that extends three generations. Moreover, although I am a long-term supporter and member of the Labour Party, there are times (albeit rarely) when it doesn’t go amiss to support opinion attributed to a Conservative party member (in this case the PM) should the situation arise.

There followed an extraordinary defensive rant regarding Schofield by a  Devon-based former Facebook ‘friend’ (someone I have been acquainted with for about 35 years). He is a chum of Schofield.

However, it turns out that my description over the actions on air of the presenter wasn’t really too far off the mark.

An OFCOM (broadcast regulator) enquiry will determine if this presenter was told to hand this list to the PM, however as ITV has indicated it is becoming evident that maybe Schofield wasn’t given this instruction after all.

ITV has now referred to “appropriate disciplinary action” and said “we sincerely apologise because the way in which the issue was raised was clearly wrong and should have been handled differently.” Their statement had been issued after Schofield said he had assembled the list after trawling the internet for three minutes.

Policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green described Schofield’s actions as “tasteless and silly”, while Tory MP Stuart Andrew said the ambush was “completely irresponsible and an outrageous stunt”.

There was a time when I’d take online putdowns with a pinch of salt, but sometimes I really do feel the need to defend myself a little bit and this a case in point.

As for my references to the ‘idiot’, well, okay I am sorry. I know when I am wrong. Perhaps I could have chosen a better expression like ‘complete and utter idiot’ which seems quite polite bearing in mind the wider reaction across the country and the political divide.

Since writing this entry there have been developments as reported here by The Mirror:

This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield ’embarrassed’ Prime Minister David Cameron with his paedophile TV blunder and ‘destroyed’ Lord McAlpine’s reputation, his lawyer claimed today.

Solicitor Andrew Reid said that by handing the PM a list – understood to be Tory party figures – which he had found on the internet, he had effectively encouraged viewers to seek them out.

ITV announced today that it had taken “appropriate disciplinary action” over the incident.

Schofield was widely criticised by politicians and the presenter was later forced to apologise after the list was briefly exposed on screen.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Lord McAlpine’s solicitor Andrew Reid hit out at Schofield’s actions describing them as “very low” and said they were suing his employer ITV.

Asked whether Lord McAlpine was considering further action, Mr Reid said: “We are beyond the considering at this point. Very sadly, we are going to have to take action against a lot of people.

“The next person on our list is in fact the This Morning programme, run by ITV, where Phillip Schofield managed to embarrass the Prime Minister… and then destroy my client’s reputation.

“What he did really was very, very low, and I’m amazed it was allowed, absolutely amazed. It sent everyone onto the internet – those that couldn’t read what was there, naturally, would be made even more keen to have gone onto the internet to see who was being referred to.”

Ian Waugh