A Sun journalist complained to broadcast regulator Ofcom after ITV News used a video clip of Deal or No Deal presenter Noel Edmonds calling him “the lowlife of British journalism”.
A Sun on Sunday story by Michael Hamilton published in January claimed Edmonds was selling his home and planned to leave the UK because he was “crushed” that he was the first contestant voted off ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here last year.
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Edmonds subsequently called the story, which has since been removed from the Sun’s website, “untrue” and “malicious” in a video posted online.
“The Sun were told last week that it’s complete lies and I think they’ve done it simply because I’ve declined thousands of pounds to give them an exclusive interview when I came out of the jungle,” Edmonds said.
Edmonds went on to single out Hamilton, saying: “And, my personal message to Michael Hamilton, the journalist concerned who was told that it was lies, is you, sir, are the lowlife of British journalism.
“And, if there’s any reason why I would go to New Zealand, it’s to get away from disgusting people like you.”
Hamilton complained to Ofcom after an ITV News report on the dispute included this “personal attack” without giving him an opportunity to respond, which he said amounted to unfair treatment by the broadcaster.
The journalist said Edmonds was wrong in his claim that Hamilton had been fully informed of the truth about his housing situation before the story was published.
Hamilton said Edmonds’ comments had the potential to cause “significant damage to his professional reputation”.
Although ITV News asked the Sun for a response to the video, it did not tell the newspaper it planned to use the section about Hamilton, the journalist went on.
He added that he should have been contacted personally because the report included a “highly personal attack on me by a celebrity which has left me open to widespread vitriol and ridicule”.
In its response to Ofcom, ITV News pointed out that a number of online news articles had reported on Edmonds’ video without including responses from either the Sun or Hamilton.
It spoke to the Sun’s press officer and agreed to include this response in its report: “In a statement The Sun said it was unable to comment, although it has not heard from Noel Edmonds directly, and would love to.”
The Sun’s press officer later phoned the ITV News desk and asked for an addition to the previous statement to make clear that “Mr Hamilton is a good journalist and The Sun give him their full support”.
This addition “clearly suggested” the Sun was aware the report could contain criticism of Hamilton as well as the newspaper itself, ITV News said.
However an editorial decision was taken that “the first statement represented the newspaper’s response to the core allegations in the video concerning the original article, and that the inclusion of this further information was not necessary”.
ITV News added that “in hindsight it regretted” this decision but it still believed the broadcast fairly reflected the Sun’s response to the focus of its report, which was Edmonds’ claim that the newspaper article was inaccurate.
The broadcaster also said that as a professional journalist who writes stories about celebrities in a national tabloid newspaper, Hamilton “was likely to be used to public criticism from celebrities from time to time in response to such stories”.
In its ruling, Ofcom said Hamilton had not been treated unfairly as the statement from the Sun gave viewers “sufficient information to enable them to understand both parties’ position on the matter”.
Viewers would have understood the criticisms were attributed to Edmonds and that his comments were not endorsed by ITV News itself, the regulator added.
It also said it was reasonable for the broadcaster to contact the Sun as Hamilton’s employer to ask for a response to an issue that arose from his published work.
Edmonds had complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the accuracy of the Sun story.
The press regulator dismissed the complaint, saying the claims were not reported as undisputed fact and that Edmonds’ denial was clear in the story.
Picture: ITV/I’m a Celebrity … Get me Out of Here