Why TV can take no Pride in its disgraceful reaction to Phillip Schofield - Christa Ackroyd

This month is Pride month. You know the time of the year when we reflect on how far we have progressed towards becoming a more tolerant society, the kind of society where you are not defined by your sexuality, when we all say hey live and let live.

And we celebrate it with big, camp, rainbow coloured marches and jamborees, fun and frolics. And we all join in with love and happiness. Because we are all so understanding, kind and above all inclusive, aren’t we ?

Oh and by the way did you know Phillip Schofield is gay? You may have missed the news. You get my point I hope. Tolerant we are not. Judgmental we are. Or at least that’s what TV producers and newspaper editors would have us believe.

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Otherwise why would this ‘news’ story have dominated the headlines day after day these past few weeks? But then none of us have ever made a big mistake or carried a secret we would not like to come out have we?

Phillip Schofield,  Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA WirePhillip Schofield,  Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Phillip Schofield, Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

This column is not about Phillip’s sexuality. I am not interested. And guess what I hazard a guess that you aren’t either. Unless there is more that we don’t know about I genuinely believe the general public could not give a damn. As far as I can ascertain Phillip Schofield is being slaughtered in the press and in the court of public opinion for being exactly what he was applauded for three years ago when he came out as being gay.

Yes he lied. Yes his relationship which lasted a few months was with a man decades younger than him. Yes he cheated on his wife and caused them hurt but that is for them to resolve. It is not for us to bully, because that is what it has become, bullying. And certainly not to the extent than someone contemplates suicide.

He is not the first person to have had an affair. He is not the first person to have been found out. He is not the first person to have been married to a woman and decide he is not straight. But this has been relentless. And yes , homophobic.

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When Phillip Schofield announced he was gay he was hugged and tears shed on his own programme. I personally found watching his TV ‘confession‘ uncomfortable. Not because he was gay but because coming out was made a TV event on a telly programme.

I didn’t care then and I don’t care now. I never believed for one moment it was simply a fleeting fancy. I always presumed he had explored his sexuality before reaching his conclusion. So that he has had a relationship is no surprise. It definitely isn’t a shock.

What I don’t understand is how it has become news. How it has become so huge that it has been on our national news bulletins, not once but day after day.

I understand the tabloids have got their scoop. I understand that having lied ITV will be furious. But how is it impacting me or you in our daily lives? It isn’t. I can only come to the conclusion it’s because he is gay.

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Men have had relationships with much younger women since time immemorial. Elvis, Bruce Forsyth, Les Dawson, Leonardo, Robert De Niro et al. And we don’t really care. They are certainly not open to accusations that they are groomers.

There is a huge difference between grooming and a consensual, if ‘unwise’ relationship. Being groomed is to be rendered incapable of making a decision by abuse, force, drugs or mental torture. Or are we saying every age gap relationship is as a result of grooming? Yes there should be an investigation by ITV.

Yes they should examine their own conduct in terms of safeguarding and duty of care. But duty of care also includes Phillip Schofield, a man who lets face it, for decades gave his bosses what they wanted, successful programmes.

But put bluntly I don’t want him to die after making a huge and terrible mistake. I don’t want this young lad to be forever defined by his failed relationship with a fallen TV star. And thank goodness Caroline Flack’s mother was the first to come out and say it does have similarities with the sort of pressure her daughter felt unable to cope with, when support for him was deafeningly silent.

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As for his former colleagues, keep quiet, do your job and stop fuelling the fire. Those who have been among the most vocal in their criticism once worked with him and are simply appearing bitter and vindictive and above all two-faced.

They were quite happy to be photographed with their arms around him when his star was still shining. And equally as happy to stick the boot in when it has come crashing down. Enough. And that includes you Eamon Holmes. You have had a great career. You are still working on TV and you are beginning to sound obsessed and bitter.

As for Holly Willoughby’s scripted opening on her return to This Morning asking us the viewer ‘are you ok?’ Yes we are thanks. And we don’t need to hear how you are finding it all rather difficult. You could have said that in a text to the person you sat alongside for more than a decade when he asked for forgiveness not subjected the viewer to how let down you are feeling.

If you are ‘shaken troubled’ and ‘full of questions’ talk to the man himself. We don’t care.

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So why has it become news? At what point did TV news producers sit around saying this story should lead the bulletins when so many other things are going on in the world, especially on the BBC, a channel Schofield didn’t even work for?

I can hazard a guess as to why it happened. Because many TV news producers live in TV la la land. They believe that the general public is as obsessed with the industry as they are.

They make their judgements based on social media response when we all know that social media is bitter and vindictive and above all a platform for hate. And they need to get out more. They need to surround themselves with real people not TV types if this is their genuine opinion of what the public are interested in.

People want real news. They are worrying about how to feed their kids or pay their fuel bills or about a war where children are fleeing for their lives as a bombs rain down. Two youngsters have drowned after going to the beach on a sunny day and hundreds have died in a train crash in India.

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Not to mention an elected government taking legal action so they don’t have to release all the information required by the person they have employed to conduct their own inquiry into Covid. That is real news. Much has been written about a toxic atmosphere at ITV.

Well I tell you what is toxic.

This obsessive vitriol that is being spouted to kick a man when he is down, this holier than thou attitude that forgets that behind this sorry and, yes, sordid tale are people who have been destroyed. A family, a marriage, a young man who wanted to be in TV and an older lover who looks and sounds like he wants to die.

Nothing is worth that. And everything else is not our business. #bekind