Three years after its initial investigation into Phillip Schofield’s affair with a younger colleague, and under pressure to explain its role in the developing scandal, ITV has commissioned an external review into the facts of the “unwise but not illegal” relationship.
Schofield (61) was TV royalty in Britain, an ITV star who presented the station’s flagship breakfast show, This Morning – as well as several other prime time, family-friendly programmes.
His 40-year career imploded in recent weeks amid media headlines unimaginable this time last year when he and his co-host on the breakfast TV sofa, smiley, fun mum-next-door Holly Willoughby were beloved media darlings.
Some say “queue gate” – where the two were perceived to have skipped the very lengthy queue for the queen’s lying in state – was the first crack in the glossy image, but the real fracture came when Schofield’s brother was convicted of sexually grooming a child. Willoughby issued a statement saying she was unaware of the charges, Philip hadn’t told her, the first sign that the two presenters were not as close as they portrayed; that behind the scenes the This Morning family was not a happy one.
Then came reports that Phillip Schofield had had a relationship with a much younger male member of the programme’s team – he admitted the charge having initially denied it to journalists – and he resigned first from the programme and then from ITV. Meanwhile Willoughby took two weeks’ leave as station bosses reeled from accusations it had covered up Schofield’s behaviour and knew about a toxic on-set atmosphere.
Irish Times London correspondent Mark Paul takes us through the sordid story and the media spotlight that shows no signs of looking away. Presented by Bernice Harrison. Produced by Suzanne Brennan.