U.K. Regulator Launches Probe Into Report That Led to Resignation of BBC Leader

ofcom - H 2012

UPDATED: Ofcom is investigating news flagship show "Newsnight" and "ITV This Morning" for blunders in sexual abuse coverage.

LONDON - U.K. media regulator Ofcom has launched investigations into BBC news flagship show Newsnight and ITV morning show ITV This Morning for blunders in their coverage of sexual abuse scandals.

Newsnight had wrongly implicated a British politician in a child abuse scandal. That report led to the abrupt resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, ITV This Morning drew viewer complaints after host Phillip Schofield recently handed Prime Minister David Cameron a list of alleged child abusers that he had found online. Certain names on the list were legible on-air.

"Both programs raise issues warranting investigation," Ofcom said, saying it will look at the shows in the light of "generally accepted standards by ITV and the BBC."
It said it would also probe if they had applied "standards to prevent unfair treatment to an individual and unwarranted infringements of privacy."

Ofcom announced its investigations right after ITV had issued a statement saying that Schofield and some production staff of his morning show had been disciplined.

"Last Thursday we began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the mistake on that day's This Morning program, for which both Phillip Schofield and ITV apologized," the network said. "This investigation has now concluded, and the appropriate disciplinary action has been taken. We sincerely apologize because the way in which the issue was raised was clearly wrong and should have been handled differently. We have taken steps to make sure our editorial processes are always properly followed, which was not the case in this instance, and to ensure such an error will not be made again."

ITV didn't provide further details. Schofield was on the air hosting the morning program on Thursday.

On Friday, another host of ITV This Morning read an apology from Schofield. In it, he said a "misjudged camera angle" was to blame for showing some of the names on the list, adding that it was "never my intention" to identify anyone on the list.

Cameron had declined to look at the list, warning that it could lead to "a sort of witch hunt." Other journalists, including veteran BBC radio host Jonathan Dimbleby, later criticized Schofield for what they called a stunt. 

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai