UPDATE: U.K. broadcaster ITV is standing by Piers Morgan following a recent Twitter spat between the long-time presenter and industry campaigner Adeel Amini. The social media exchange resulted in an open letter to ITV requesting that the broadcaster denounce bullying in all forms and reveal the findings of internal discussions around Morgan’s conduct.
Although ITV had remained silent on the matter since last week, the broadcaster responded on Monday evening.
In a statement to the letter’s more than 1,200 signatories from across the British TV industry, ITV said, “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,” the statement continues.
“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.”
Hostilities between Morgan and Amini flared last week when the latter, who worked as a researcher on Morgan’s ITV talk show “Life Stories” for a number of months, revealed on Twitter that he wouldn’t do so again if given the opportunity. Although he made it clear it was Morgan’s show, Amini didn’t directly tag the presenter online. In response, Morgan who also co-hosts popular ITV breakfast show “Good Morning Britain,” responded: “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.”
He later labeled Amini an “abusive hypocrite” after the campaigner urged his followers to “call out bullies.”
An open letter in support of Amini, organized by an anonymous group of freelancers, began gaining traction over the weekend, and has to date garnered close to 1,200 signatories, encompassing top commissioners, channel executives, managing directors and executive producers. More than 1,000 freelancers from production, post-production, on-screen talent, writers, talent agents and accountants have also signed the letter, which was presented to ITV executives on Monday.
ITV was among the broadcasters who joined the Coalition for Change last year, pledging to make industry-wide improvements relating to employment and recruitment practices, workplace culture, race and diversity, bullying and harassment, training and talent progression, new talent, mental health and wellbeing. In a column for Variety, co-organizers Amini and Abby C. Kumar wrote about the org’s mission to professionalize the industry and create a sustainable ecosystem, hand in hand with the broadcasters.
The open letter to ITV, which was addressed to CEO Carolyn McCall, director of programs Kevin Lygo and the wider group, reads: “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,” the letter continues. “Last year, conversations facilitated by The TV Mindset and other organizations, 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.”
Amini founded the media industry support group The TV Mindset, which has focused on mental health issues and support for freelancers. At the 2020 Edinburgh TV Festival awards, he was presented with the industry champion award for his campaigning on behalf of industry freelancers. His producing credits include “Lingo,” “Catchphrase” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.”
One of the most polarizing figures in British media, Morgan’s outspoken views consistently draw complaints to media regulator Ofcom. He has co-hosted “Good Morning Britain” with Susanna Reid since 2014, and has also judged competition shows like “America’s Got Talent” and “Britain’s Got Talent.”
Spurred on by the #MeToo movement in late 2017, bullying has become a key issue for the U.K. TV industry in recent years. It’s especially relevant to the film and TV industries, which is propped up by a largely freelance workforce that doesn’t have the rights and protections afforded to full-time employees.