ITV’s alleged attempt to “stitch up” Nigel Farage broke media rules and would have landed the channel in serious trouble if they had pressed ahead with allegations against the former Brexit Party leader, it has been claimed.
Top media lawyer Jonathan Coad, who has had clients who were in the jungle for previous I’m a Celebrity… shows, said that ITV had risked getting into trouble with the broadcast media watchdog Ofcom and could have faced severe fines.
The experienced lawyer, who once worked for ITV, told GB News that the attempt to run a story “making a serious allegation” of racism against Farage required giving him to personally have a right of reply.
He noted that the contract Farage signed to go on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! meant that he is not able to have any contact with the outside world while he is in the jungle.
Mr Coad, who has “legalled out programs” for 30 years, said: “When I worked for ITV they were very keen to comply with the Ofcom code. Now Ofcom is a respected regulator it has the power to fine and ultimately take away licences.”
He noted that paragraph section 7.11 of the Ofcom code says that if serious accusations are made there is “appropriate and timely opportunity to respond.”
He went on: “Now the problem here is that you cannot [do this]in a situation where Nigel Farage cannot be spoken to.
“What ITV seem to be doing, which for me is a serious breach in my professional opinion, it is essential Nigel Farage is given the opportunity to give a response personally.”
He said that his advice would have been to the program that they “cannot make that allegation” because of Mr Farage’s inability to respond.
Mr Coad said that if it does come out then Mr Farage’s lawyer should write to Ofcom.
Mr Coad warned ITV would “be culpable as an entity”.
He added: “I cannot think of any good reason why they could wiggle out of this.”
The row has exploded after Express.co.uk revealed that ITV’s investigations department had given Farage’s team until 8am this morning to respond to claims he had sent a racist video via Cameo – a personalised video messaging service where famous people read messages people have written to their friends and family.
ITV news had suggested in an email that it planned on running the story at a time when Farage was on ITV’s own show, was unable to speak to his representatives and when viewers of I’m a Celebrity… were about to vote on removing contestants.
Mr Farage’s team claimed that it was “a stitch up” and noted that it came days after ITV’s Director of Television Kevin Lygo had been rude about the GB News star presenter.
ITV has not responded to requests from Express.co.uk for a comment.
Responding to the allegations, a spokesman for Mr Farage said: “Over the last few years, Nigel has filmed over 4,000 Cameo messages for fans and supporters.
“This includes videos for people’s weddings, birthdays, stag dos, in-jokes between friends and even people who are ill in hospital.
“When Nigel first joined Cameo, there was a concerted effort by Remain supporters to hijack the platform to embarrass Nigel by getting him to read out obscure rude words and in-jokes between friends.
“It is widely reported that some of these slipped through the net, as Nigel is a classic Boomer Dad.”
He said: “In the video, Nigel was asked by a customer on Cameo to read a message they had written for a friend.
“Had Nigel known that the message he was asked to read contained an obscure offensive word he would not have made the video.”
Turning fire on ITV, the spokesman said: “For ITV News to ask Nigel to respond when they know he contractually can’t is a complete stitch-up.
“Is it a coincidence that this attack by ITV was to be revealed on the same day that voting lines open for supporters to decide who will remain in the Jungle?
“The aim of Nigel going into camp was to reach a new audience. It is clear he is starting to do that. His campmates like him and so does the huge audience of the show.”
He added: “Maybe their [ITV’s] greatest fear is that Nigel becomes King of the Jungle.”