Since the end of May 2023, English TV has been hit by a succession of scandals. First it was Phillip Schofield who was accused of having an affair with a member of staff who he had met while he was underage. This led to the presenter stepping down from This Morning, ITV and his career altogether.
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Then, at the beginning of July 2023, there was Huw Edwards. This scandal was much bigger than Schofield’s as there was a lot of mystery around it. Indeed, Edwards was named a week after rumours of a BBC presenter paying an underage man for explicit pictures was released by The Sun.
And finally, since mid July, GB News presenter Dan Wootton has been the subject of a series of articles by independent publication Byline Times. Wootton’s scandal is something we have never seen before and it follows a three-year-long investigation. Revelations keep coming every week and yet, somehow, all three of those scandals aren’t receiving the same attention or reactions from mainstream media and the general public.
So, could we see Dan Wootton’s scandal as a way to put the previous two into perspective?
Dan Wootton is spared by mainstream media
On 20 May, Phillip Schofield announced his departure from hit show This Morning. The announcement specified that his departure was immediate. Only six days after this news, Schofield admitted to ‘having a relationship with a much younger’ member of staff. However, while he admitted to the affair he called it ‘unwise but not illegal.’
For weeks, Phillip Schofield has been suffering from intense media and popular attention. So much so that he had to sit down with the BBC for a tell-all interview. Since then the former famous presenter has been away from any form of spotlight.
Huw Edwards’ story is different. It started with the mystery published by The Sun. As soon as this came out, mainstream and social media went into a frenzy. People spent days trying to guess who the presenter was leading to people like Gary Lineker and Rylan having to defend themselves as the BBC refused to comment on any allegations. Until Edwards was named as the presenter the media was focused on the story, so much so that he has now been reportedly placed in a hospital where he is getting help for his mental health.
However, both Schofield and Edwards’ have been cleared of criminal charges. These are personal affairs to be dealt with internally by the TV networks involved.
Dan Wootton’s scandal, however, is a totally different beast. Not only is it not about one or two incidents; his scandal required a three-year-long investigation by Byline Times. Moreover, we are dealing with allegations of catfishing people for explicit pictures and sometimes without their consent.
While these claims are outrageously big, mainstream media has been surprisingly quiet. The Guardian released a couple of articles but that is it. This silence from the British press, which is usually so keen to print every and anything about things like this, is not going unnoticed. Byline has of course commented on it but so have people on social media.
This raises several questions, one of which was brought to The Sun by MPs: why is mainstream media choosing to stay silent? Was the coverage of Phillip Schofield and Huw Edwards’ scandals appropriate? Did tabloids and publications go too far about scandals that didn’t require that much scrutiny?
Both Schofield and Edwards lost their jobs
Another aspect that surfaces when you place those three scandals side by side is the way the presenters are treated by their employers.
Indeed, knowing what was to come, Schofield took the decision to step away from a show he had been hosting for over a decade. Huw Edwards was removed from our screens right before the news broke.
However, Dan Wootton is still on air every single night. As far as GB News is concerned, everything is business as usual. Every night, Dan Wootton is allowed to comment on the latest news, the BBC’s current struggles and the Royal Family. It’s almost as if no serious accusations were currently being made against him. Every time an article from Byline comes out,GB News, Wootton,The Sun and Mail Online choose not to comment on it. The only tangible consequence so far has been that Wootton’s column in Mail Online has been paused. Paused as in… it could be resumed.
While both ITV and BBC presenters have possibly lost their entire careers, Wootton is carrying on. More than that, other journalists happen to have less to say about his scandal.
If we take Huw Edwards as a point of reference, he had numerous colleagues and journalists comment on his case. It is also important to specify that while his identity wasn’t publicly revealed, people who are part of the TV business knew who The Sun’s article was about. Jeremy Vine, for instance, used both X and his show to comment on the scandal and urged Edwards to come forward.
However, the Dan Wootton scandal has, as far as we’ve seen, only been commented on by Byline journalists.
More questions emerge: why were Schofield and Edwards obliged to step away from their work? And how can we explain the difference between how the BBC, ITV and GB News are handling these stories?
Could Wootton's story impact Schofield and Edwards?
Now that we have taken a moment (we know it was quite long) to look at the differences in the handlings of those scandals, we are led to wonder about how Dan Wootton’s treatment could influence the lives and careers of Phillip Schofield and Huw Edwards.
Indeed, it is fair to say that both of their scandals were on a considerably smaller scale. Of course, they were still problematic, but they did not require investigative journalists to spend three years uncovering everything. Nor did they require the help of mathematicians or hacking experts to make sense of intricate evidence.
If Dan Wootton is allowed to continue working while a scandal unfolds, and he is spammed with numerous comments asking for explanations, why wouldn’t Phillip Schofield and Huw Edwards be allowed to come back?
Moreover, according to a YouGov poll people aren’t opposed to having Huw Edwards come back on air. Phillip Schofield has been keeping a low profile even though he was rumoured to join the cast of Strictly Come Dancing and has been seen with former colleague Vanessa Feltz.
It could be interesting to use the Dan Wootton scandal as a way to rethink how the press, ourselves included, report on such events in order to ensure that these topics are treated with the attention they deserve without favouritism or bias.
Mail Online: Phillip Schofield scandal explained: Full timeline of the ITV crisis and what happens next