Left-leaning ITV boss Carolyn McCall and other ‘woke’ chiefs at the channel is facing a backlash today for forcing out Piers Morgan after Ofcom ruled he did not breach its broadcasting code with his criticism of Meghan Markle.
Ex-Guardian chief Dame Carolyn is under mounting pressure to explain why she tried to suppress Mr Morgan’s free speech after Meghan complained to her directly and allegedly implored her to censure her critic as they were both ‘women and mothers’.
The regulator cleared Mr Morgan over his comments about the Duchess of Sussex, which sparked 50,000 complaints allegedly that what he said was ‘harmful’ and ‘highly offensive’, following her Oprah Winfrey interview.
ITV lost hundreds of thousands of viewers and millions more in advertising revenue after Mr Morgan quit, amid a big ratings gap between GMB and rival BBC Breakfast.
And ITV were today accused of ‘ruining their own hit breakfast show’ six months after the row in March which saw him quit the programme after six years.
ITV News royal editor Chris Ship tweeted: ‘So what does ITV do about Piers Morgan’s job at Good Morning Britain now Ofcom has cleared him and the TV network of a breach of the broadcasting code?’ Mr Morgan later commented on this tweet with a ‘puzzled face’ emoji.
Mr Morgan’s former co-host Susanna Reid retweeted Ofcom’s verdict today without comment, but others said it was ‘very disappointing’ that Meghan ‘made ITV roll over with one phone call’ after she made a formal complaint about the broadcast.
Mr Morgan revealed today that Meghan ‘wrote directly to my ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall the night before I was forced out, demanding my head on a plate’.
Today, viewers told ITV to ‘bring back Piers’, urging them to ‘see sense’ and ‘do the right thing’ – while MailOnline columnist Dan Wootton led criticism of the channel.
An ITV spokesman said today: ‘We welcome the Ofcom ruling that Good Morning Britain did not breach the broadcast standards relating to harm and offence.
‘The ruling sets out clearly that it was the balance and context the programme makers provided which was key in mitigating against the potential for harm and offence which could have been caused by Piers Morgan’s comments.
‘It is because of the programme’s editorial decisions and the opposing views which were forcefully expressed by other presenters and guests, that the programme did not breach Ofcom’s rules.’
But Mr Morgan then tweeted: ‘Hmmm, ITV have just put out a statement saying I only won the Ofcom case against Princess Pinocchio because my colleagues expressed different opinions to mine. That’s not what the Ofcom report says in its conclusion. I suggest ITV reads it again.’
Piers Morgan, pictured with co-host Susanna Reid, quit ITV’s Good Morning Britain in March
Ex-Guardian chief Dame Carolyn McCall is under mounting pressure to explain why she tried to suppress Mr Morgan’s free speech after Meghan complained to her directly
ITV News royal editor Chris Ship, pictured on GMB in January last year, tweeted today: ‘So what does ITV do about Piers Morgan’s job at Good Morning Britain now Ofcom has cleared him and the TV network of a breach of the broadcasting code?’
Piers Morgan commented on Mr Ship’s tweet with a ‘puzzled face’ emoji this afternoon
Mr Morgan’s former co-host Susanna Reid retweeted Ofcom’s verdict today without comment
Mr Wootton said today: ‘Piers Morgan rightly cleared by Ofcom. Freedom of speech wins the day! And woke ITV ruined their own hit breakfast show in the process.
‘Wouldn’t want to be Harry waking up next to Meghan in Montecito in the morning when she picks up her phone.’
Pressure on ITV’s ‘leftie luvvie’ £900,000-a-year CEO Carolyn McCall who defended Love Island and Jeremy Kyle – but not Piers Morgan
Left-leaning former Guardian boss Dame Carolyn McCall joined ITV as chief executive on £900,000-a-year in January 2018.
As well as earning a near seven figure salary, she is eligible for an annual bonus to a maximum of 180 per cent of salary, a long-term incentive plan up to 265 per cent of salary and a generous 15 per cent pension allowance.
The mother-of-three – one of just seven female FTSE 100 bosses – was with easyJet for seven years after previously running the Guardian Media Group.
Gordon Brown and Labour handed her an OBE for services to women in business in 2008 and won a Damehood in 2016 while boss of budget airline easyJet.
At the time rival Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary dismissed her as ‘some old media luvvie’ due to her lack of airline experience.
Dame Carolyn, worked her way up in the media company after starting as a research planner and became a close ally of former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger.
The pair built up the paper’s website but were criticised for failing to make it profitable.
The pair built up the paper’s website but were criticised for failing to make it profitable.
Since joining ITV she has also been rocked by a series of scandals, including the cancellation of the Jeremy Kyle Show after a suicide.
She was dragged before MPs last year (pictured) and insisted guests gave ‘informed consent’ and knew the nature of the programme they were appearing on.
When accused of broadcasting a ‘human freak show’, she said: ‘It was adults, they went through a screening and vetting process, they went through quite a lot of hoops before they went on that show.’
Ms McCall also said she would be comfortable with her children appearing on Love Island.
She left easyJet after Adam Crozier stepped down as ITV boss at the end of June of 2017. Ms McCall has also held a non-executive director post at Burberry, sat on the board of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and is a Trustee at the Royal Academy.
Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie said: ‘Great news for Piers Morgan as Ofcom clear him over his Meghan Truths on GMB. He told it like it is. Bloody nose for CEO Carolyn McCall who forced him out. Well said Ofcom for backing free speech.’
He added: ”A chilling restriction on freedom of expression.’ The damning verdict by Ofcom on ITV’s silencing of Piers Morgan after he said he didn’t believe a word from Meghan Markle on royal racism. CEO Carolyn McCall ordered his ousting. She should be fired and Piers rehired. Right now.’
Presenter India Willoughby added: ‘At the end of the day, Piers Morgan was right. The fact Meghan MarkUp made ITV roll over with one phone call – very disappointing.’
Toby Young, of the Free Speech Union, told talkRADIO today: ‘It would have been absolutely absurd if Ofcom had censored Piers Morgan or Good Morning Britain in any way as a result of his remarks on that programme, and I’m very glad they haven’t done so.’
He added: ‘The idea that anyone who criticises Meghan Markle must be racist and that any criticism of her is a form of racism is just ridiculous.’
Ofcom said it approached ITV for a comment on their preliminary view that the show was not in breach of the code, but the corporation declined to comment.
Today, the regulator said that Mr Morgan’s comments were ‘potentially harmful and offensive’ but said it also ‘took full account of freedom of expression’.
The presenter said the ruling was a ‘resounding victory’. Mr Morgan left GMB after saying he did not believe claims made by Meghan during her interview with Oprah.
The episode on March 8 was the most complained about moment in Ofcom’s history and it emerged that Meghan had made a formal complaint to ITV about Mr Morgan.
A statement from Ofcom said: ‘This was a finely-balanced decision. Mr Morgan’s comments were potentially harmful and offensive to viewers, and we recognise the strong public reaction to them.
‘But we also took full account of freedom of expression. Under our rules, broadcasters can include controversial opinions as part of legitimate debate in the public interest, and the strong challenge to Mr Morgan from other contributors provided important context for viewers.
‘Nonetheless, we’ve reminded ITV to take greater care around content discussing mental health and suicide in future. ITV might consider the use of timely warnings or signposting of support services to ensure viewers are properly protected.’
Following the ruling, Morgan tweeted: ‘I’m delighted Ofcom has endorsed my right to disbelieve the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’s incendiary claims to Oprah Winfrey, many of which have proven to be untrue. This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios. Do I get my job back?’
Meghan, 40, said she was ignored when raising concerns about her mental health and alleged that racist comments had been made before the birth of her son, Archie.
After a clip aired of Meghan discussing her issues with mental health and suicidal thoughts and royal official’s knowledge of them, Mr Morgan said during the ITV programme: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she says.
‘I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report.’
His comments were criticised by mental health charity Mind.
In July this year Ofcom published a list of the 10 most complained about TV broadcasts as part of its annual report for 2020/21, with the Good Morning Britain episode during which Morgan made his comments becoming the most complained about TV moment in the watchdog’s history with 54,453 complaints.
A summary of the Ofcom ruling said: ‘This programme focused on the interview between Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
‘It contained statements about suicide and mental health which had the potential to be harmful and highly offensive.
‘However, our decision is that overall the programme contained sufficient challenge to provide adequate protection and context to its viewers.
‘We also considered that the comments about race in the programme could have been potentially highly offensive, but that the comments were sufficiently contextualised. Therefore, our decision is that the programme did not breach the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.’