UPDATED, 10 AM: ITV has now responded to the letter. The company said it takes “allegations of bullying and harassment in the workplace very seriously” but because the matter did not relate to an ITV show, there is no internal investigation.
ITV CEO Carolyn McCall and Kevin Lygo, managing director of media and entertainment, said: “ITV takes any allegations of bullying and harassment in the workplace very seriously indeed, and we are clear there is absolutely no place for it in ITV.
“We have an independent whistleblowing helpline which we communicate through our induction process and which we monitor on an on-going basis, in addition to our internal grievance procedures channels, which are open to both permanent members of staff and freelancers.
“Our firm understanding is that in this instance, the tweet in question was not accusing Piers of bullying and harassment whilst working on Life Stories. Having spoken to both parties, there is therefore no internal investigation.
“In terms of the separate issue of social media exchanges, we understand some producers wish to express their views on their personal platforms, and we also think it is widely understood that Piers is a prolific and long-standing user of social media where he is well known for engaging in robust, heated exchanges, when criticism is levelled against him.
“However, Twitter accounts and the decision to comment on each other are their personal choices. Piers is a freelance presenter and we do not control his output on social media, or the other media platforms he writes for.
“To reiterate, we are clear there is no room for bullying at ITV and it is not tolerated. We are supportive and engaged members of Coalition for Change, and we will continue to work productively with colleagues across the industry.”
PREVIOUSLY, 6 AM: Nearly 1,200 UK television freelancers and executives have signed an open letter to ITV accusing Piers Morgan of bullying after the Good Morning Britain presenter targeted former colleague, Adeel Amini, on Twitter.
Morgan, who has become one of ITV’s biggest stars since presenting its breakfast show, said he’d “rather employ a lobotomised Aardvark” than work with Amini again. “You spent precisely two months working on Life Stories in 2010 & judging by your CV that was the pinnacle of your TV career,” he added.
Hi Adeel, you spent precisely two months working on Life Stories in 2010 & judging by your CV that was the pinnacle of your TV career. So you really don’t need to worry about getting any more job offers from me because I’d rather employ a lobotomised Aardvark. https://t.co/uZjmNwVeYj
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 18, 2021
It followed Amini tweeting that he would “very much say no” to working again on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories after he was employed as a researcher on the interview show as one of his first jobs in television in 2010. Amini, now a producer, did not tag or name Morgan in full in his original tweet.
UK trade Broadcast picked up on the exchange last week, reporting that ITV planned to discuss the matter with Morgan. This prompted a second tweet from Morgan, who wrote: “Yes, and I am discussing abusive hypocrite @adeelamini’s conduct with ITV.”
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 19, 2021
Now, a group of industry professionals have written to ITV CEO Carolyn McCall and Kevin Lygo, managing director of media and entertainment, to highlight their concerns. In a letter, sent at midday today, they said they were “appalled” that Morgan is “directing targeted abuse” towards a freelancer.
“As freelancers working within television, we feel a responsibility to speak out against bullying and harassment wherever we see it, including from on screen personalities who are all too often poorly reprimanded for unacceptable behaviour and abusive conduct,” the letter said.
“We believe silence in the face of harassment is complicity, which in turn allows abusive behaviour to continue behind the scenes at every level of programme making. In particular, the abuses of on-screen talent are all too often overlooked, at the expense of the dignity, health and safety of the freelancers they target.”
The letter was organized by an anonymous group of freelancers and the signatories were not named. An organizer said they had gathered support from 1,188 industry professionals, including freelancers, commissioners, executive producers, CEOs, and heads of department.
Amini has become something of a figurehead for freelancer rights over the past year, co-founding the TV Mindset, a forum for supporting the mental health of contract workers following the devastation of the coronavirus crisis.
The TV Mindset formed a Coalition For Change, involving major players across the industry. It agreed to meet every quarter to address bullying and harassment, as well as other issues, including recruitment processes and diversity.
One of the major Coalition For Change partners is ITV, which signed a statement that said: “We believe every freelancer working in our industry deserves decent working conditions and that we should all advocate a culture that promotes respect, professionalism and investment in people.”
Morgan tweeted that the letter was “beyond parody” and that he was the victim himself.
a) Mr Amini targeted me, saying he wanted to ‘poke the beast.’
b) I am therefore the victim.
c) These signatories are now victim-shaming me.
d) I have no choice but to now report my own ordeal at the hands of these 1,200 victim-shaming bullies to ITV. https://t.co/udF5MZp2Cz
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 22, 2021
Morgan first joined Good Morning Britain in 2015 and has re-established the show as a genuine competitor to the BBC in the breakfast stakes. He also presents Piers Morgan’s Life Stories for the channel, as well as high-profile documentaries, such as Psychopath with Piers Morgan. Morgan, a former CNN anchor, traded off his friendship with Donald Trump to land a number of exclusive interviews with the U.S. president during his time in office.
Below is the letter in full:
Dear Carolyn McCall, Kevin Lygo and ITV,
Like many within our industry, we have been appalled by the online conduct of Piers Morgan in directing targeted abuse towards a freelancer. Morgan, with 7.7 million Twitter followers, has repeatedly targeted and tagged a former staff-member in derogatory posts.
As freelancers working within television, we feel a responsibility to speak out against bullying and harassment wherever we see it, including from on screen personalities who are all too often poorly reprimanded for unacceptable behaviour and abusive conduct.
Last year, conversations facilitated by The TV Mindset and other organisations, including The Coalition for Change, BECTU and the Edinburgh Television Festival, reiterated the need to eradicate the widespread issue of bullying and harassment. Now is the time for action.
We believe silence in the face of harassment is complicity, which in turn allows abusive behaviour to continue behind the scenes at every level of programme making. In particular, the abuses of on-screen talent are all too often overlooked, at the expense of the dignity, health and safety of the freelancers they target. We hope you agree with us in denouncing bullying in all forms and publicly announcing the findings of ITV’s internal investigation into this matter.