ITV bosses say ‘nobody would agree we treated Caroline Flack as a commodity’

After Phillip Schofield resigned from ITV, Caroline Flack’s mother alleged the broadcaster treated its talent as ‘commodities’.
After Phillip Schofield resigned from ITV, Caroline Flack’s mother alleged the broadcaster treated its talent as ‘commodities’.

ITV bosses have refuted claims during a parliamentary hearing that the broadcaster treated late Love Island presenter Caroline Flack as a “commodity”.

Chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall and managing director Kevin Lygo faced questions from MPs on Wednesday about former This Morning host Phillip Schofield’s exit from the programme during a Culture, Media and Sport Committee session, during which they were also questioned about ITV’s duty of care for its talent.

After Schofield resigned from ITV admitting to an “unwise but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague, Caroline Flack’s mother Christine criticised the broadcaster, saying it had “learned nothing” from her daughter’s death and that on-screen talent were treated as “commodities”.

Caroline Flack apology
Former Love Island presenter Caroline Flack (Matt Crossick/PA)

Responding to the allegations during a parliamentary session, Dame Carolyn said: “We genuinely feel deeply, deeply sad about what happened to Caroline.

“People knew her well at ITV, I spoke to a lot of people at ITV that worked with her and loved working with her on the show because she loved the show.

“The family are obviously grieving. I would say we never feel that we treat anybody, whether it’s a presenter or a member of staff or a junior person that’s coming in for work experience, we would really not treat anyone like a commodity.”

Former Love Island host Flack was found dead in February 2020 at the age of 40, and a coroner later ruled she killed herself after learning that prosecutors were going to press ahead with an assault charge after an incident involving her boyfriend Lewis Burton.

Mr Lygo told the committee: “Because of things going on in her private life, she said ‘I don’t think I’m fit to do the next serious of Love Island’. We said ‘OK, we understand that’ but made it very clear it was her show, that we would get a stand-in, she could come back when she wanted to because she hadn’t done anything wrong in our eyes.

“We were offering her work and all the rest of it. Nobody would agree that we treated her as a commodity.”

The ITV bosses were also asked how Love Island was still on air having been linked to multiple suicides, including former contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis.

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Dame Carolyn McCall gives evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee at the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

Dame Carolyn responded: “I think that’s a gross misrepresentation of the show.”

She continued: “Caroline was not on the show and the reason that she tragically took her life … she was going through some extremely public things in her private life so I don’t think you can just correlate this is because she was on a show.

“There are two others than I am aware of that you might be referring to. One of the things I would say is these are deeply tragic things, no one wants to see anyone, whatever age, take their own life.

“We’ve thought about it a huge amount, as I said I don’t think any of you can even understand how deeply distressing something like that can be for people who work at ITV.

“I’ve really looked at this in some detail … and we’ve actually taken a lot of professional advice and I think the generally accepted professional opinion is that the causes of these types of tragedies are always complex and multiple.

“And both individuals you are referring to took their lives two years after they appeared on the show, and there would have been many, many, many events that would have been part of multiple causes.”

Dame Carolyn said the broadcaster works with charities including Calm and Mind.

She added: “They would say one event, albeit maybe an important event in their lives, is to simplify a very complex sequence of events and so I feel when you throw that at us, it is very difficult for us and it makes us sound unfeeling and we are really, really not – we take it so seriously.

“As I’ve said since 2018, the duty of care on every show, but Love Island particularly, is extremely comprehensive and we are very happy to leave you the file of duty of care so the committee can see the lengths we go to to protect both the participants on the show but also our staff on the show.”

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