RUTH SUNDERLAND: Ruling on Morgan's remarks is own goal for ITV chief

RUTH SUNDERLAND: This Ofcom ruling over Piers Morgan’s remarks is an own goal for the (ex-Guardian) ITV chief who Meghan Markle lobbied

Carolyn McCall has made a name for herself as one of a tiny handful of women to have risen to the very pinnacle of British business.

As chief executive of the nation’s flagship commercial broadcaster, ITV, where she was paid more than £1million last year, she is in a position of enormous power and influence.

Which is why the ruling by Ofcom, clearing Piers Morgan over his remarks about the Duchess of Sussex, raises embarrassing questions for her.

Whatever Dame Carolyn’s private views on his comments, Morgan could reasonably have expected some support from her as his ultimate boss.

Of all people she should understand the concept of free speech, one of the fundamental tenets of democracy and something that should be of the greatest importance for anyone running a media giant.

What’s more, she is a former chief executive at Guardian Media Group, where she spent the formative years of her career.

The ruling by Ofcom, clearing Piers Morgan over his remarks about the Duchess of Sussex, raises embarrassing questions for Dame Carolyn McCall, ITV’s chief executive (pictured)

Piers Morgan’s comments came after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey (pictured) in which they made some serious allegations about the royal family

Despite it being a hotbed of leftist politics, she was not noticeably socialist herself. 

But her years there might at least have instilled in her the dangers of censorship and bowing to demands from the rich and powerful to shut down their critics.

And yet, instead of a full-throated defence of Morgan, she appeared to side with Meghan Markle, saying she personally believed the duchess and that ITV was committed to supporting mental health.

So it must have stung to read Ofcom’s statement issued yesterday that said silencing the likes of Morgan would be ‘an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression’. Ouch.

Morgan has written that Meghan ‘wrote directly to my ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall the night before I was forced out, demanding my head on a plate’.

He claimed the duchess stressed she was appealing to her as a fellow woman and a mother.

Piers Morgan leaves home in West London on Wednesday evening with wife Celia (left) to attend the GQ awards at Tate Modern and (right) Piers is pictured at the awards reception

We do not know what Dame Carolyn made of this attempt to evoke female solidarity.

But whatever her personal feelings about Morgan, or his opinions, in her role as his chief executive she should have defended his right to voice them.

If you run a media company, free speech should be front and centre.

When it comes to Morgan, this is not only a point of principle, but of commercial good sense.

In failing to keep him on board, she risked killing off a goose that laid golden eggs.

Instant retribution followed: Around £300million was wiped off ITV’s stock market value in the immediate aftermath of his departure from Good Morning Britain as the share price plunged.

It has since recovered but that was an unmistakeable sign of how important an asset he was to the company.

Morgan is pugnacious, outspoken, often acute and always watchable.

That is not something any broadcaster can afford to squander.

Least of all ITV, which suffered badly during the pandemic, when people became addicted to alternatives such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and when advertising

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