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bbc, defamation.ITV, newsnight, Paedophiles, Schofield

The worst case of irresponsible and defamatory journalism in broadcasting history. From ITV, not the BBC.

    “Paedo Tories Outed on Live TV” was how the Daily Star newspaper reported the ambush of David Cameron by Phillip Schofield on ITV’s This Morning programme last Thursday. The presenter thrust into the Prime Minister’s lap a list of the names of alleged paedophiles which had been plucked from the internet before going on air.  
     With all the attention focussed on the BBC’s self-flagellation over the defaming of Lord McAlpine, who is of course totally innocent of all accusations, the rest of the media seems to be getting a free pass.  Exposing a list of names of alleged Tory paedophiles on live television is about as defamatory as it gets. The fact that it was thrust under the nose of the Prime Minister makes it, arguably, one of the worst cases of irresponsible journalism in the history of broadcasting. 
    Yet, no heads appear to be rolling in ITV. No inquiries have been set up to investigate how this could have happened.  Schofield and co are not being hauled before the media and culture select committee.   The press is having a great time attacking the BBC, but has allowed an equally serious breach of journalistic standards to go largely unremarked. 
   It was a disgraceful stunt and Cameron handled it rather well by not losing his temper and by warning that there was a risk of a witch-hunt of gay politicians.   It says a lot about Cameron as a politician that he didn’t explode.  But because of his moderate response, this appalling incident got lost in the furore over Newsnight’s implosion
     But the damage had already done, as made clear by the Daily Star headline. A raft of prominent public figures who are probably innocent are now ineluctably connected with child abuse because their names are all over the internet.  Anyone with a search engine can find them. 
  This story is far from over.

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About iain2macwhirter

Writer and journalist.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “The worst case of irresponsible and defamatory journalism in broadcasting history. From ITV, not the BBC.

  1. Cameron's response did two things.Firstly it fixed in people's minds that paedophiles and homosexuals are associated. Why else would you have a witch-hunt of gays when we are talking about kiddie fiddlers? As far as I know they are not. And if there is a spate of gay bashing, then I image we can put that at the door of Cameron.Secondly, although he didn't look at the list, he would be as incompetent as Entwistle if he didn't know who was on it. Thatcherite Tory ministers. And he indicated that they were gay.So now everyone is trying to work out who the gay ministers were. And Norman Tebbit is telling us all that Denis wouldn't have had any of that 'nonsense' in Downing Street (and there was me thinking that Margaret was the prime minister!!!)I agree that Schofield, as a "journalist" (if you will) at the most populist, Daily Star end of the profession, was kilometres out of line in what he did and his producers were even more out of line in allowing it, and I agree they should be being roasted for a total lack of professionalism.Let's hope that the result of this is not that the people who were involved are spared because everyone is too scared of losing their jobs to out them.No use going to the police. No one trusts them any more.

    Posted by tris | November 12, 2012, 12:22 pm
  2. I always thought that journalism was about stepping back and collating all of the time-line facts before jumping in.Who was the first to link anyone to the Thatcher era BBC, Watson or someone else?Meesham was told by the police the name he identified in the photograph yet there are other possible suspects with the Macalpine surname who were alive at the time of alleged offences a brother and father.So who first linked the Tories with the alleged abuse?Meesham has gone AWOL since being smeared as unreliable by some journalists which will aid the abusers in making other victims less liable to come forward. Still we have a deadline and a career to maintain sums up British culture.

    Posted by cynicalHighlander | November 12, 2012, 8:59 pm
  3. Iain, your case has more than a tad of the non-sequitir about it, because your claim seems to be that Phillip Schofield was responsilbe for the scenario outlined in your final paragraph, due to his actions on TV.But it wasn't Schofield responsible for a "raft of prominent public figures who are probably innocent [and] are now ineluctably connected with child abuse because their names are all over the internet", as you allude, because that was the scenario pertaining before Schofield's TV stunt. He could only perform the stunt because there were already a raft of figures ineluctably connected with child abuse with their names all over the internet.It's probably fair to say that Schofield's actions exacerbated it all to a degree, but to an extent your argument seems to be a case of shooting the messenger.Essentially the defamatory damage was already done, and even if viewers could have discerned the names from Schofield's list – but they couldn't – then it would have merely increased the numbers being aware of the names in question.

    Posted by Stuart Winton | November 15, 2012, 8:10 am

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