U.K. Network ITV Faces Libel Suit for up to $795,000 (Report)

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LONDON - A former British top politician who reached a $293,500 settlement with the BBC last week for linking him to a child abuse scandal is looking to sue fellow U.K. TV network operator ITV for as much as $795,000 (£500,000) in a related lawsuit.

The threatened suit and the amount of damages sought were mentioned in a report by the Daily Telegraph.

An ITV spokesman confirmed Monday that the network has received a legal letter about the issue and would respond in due course. He had no further comment. Observers expect a settlement.

Both big TV networks have landed in hot water with their coverage of an abuse case in a childcare home in Wales, which linked Lord McAlpine to the scandal. In the BBC's case, a wrong report led to the resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle.

The Telegraph quoted a spokesman as explaining that McAlpine was looking for more money from ITV than the BBC, because in the case of the latter "the money was coming from the taxpayer." U.K. taxpayers pay a certain annual fee to help fund the BBC. A source close to McAlpine told the Telegraph: “With ITV they are planning to get considerably more than the BBC, because they are a commercial organization."

ITV has attracted criticism for an episode of its morning show This Morning, on which host Phillip Schofield had tried to hand British Prime Minister David Cameron a list of names of alleged pedophiles that he had found online. Due to what Schofield later called a “misjudged camera angle” viewers could see some of the names on the list. ITV and Schofield apologized, and the network last week said it has disciplined the host while allowing him to continue in his job.

McAlpine's lawyer told a BBC radio show: “Phillip Schofield managed to embarrass the Prime Minister as a side part and then destroy my client’s reputation."

In the case of the BBC, its mistaken McAlpine report has been the cause of its recent management shake-up.

BBC flagship news show Newsnight had reported that a political veteran was involved in the scandal without naming him. But viewers deducted from the report that the man in question was McAlpine who came out to deny the allegations. The BBC retracted the story, saying the source of its report had made a mistake and it had failed to reach out to McAlpine for comment.

The BBC late last week agreed to a $293,500 (£185,000) settlement of the libel case.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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