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Non-Disclosure Agreements at Media Outlets Like ITN Allow ‘Toxic Environments’ and Harassment to Fester, Senior MP Says

ITN – which runs the news operations of Channel 4 and ITV – has been accused of continuing to use Non-Disclosure Agreements to cover up complaints of harassment and discrimination, a claim the firm strongly denies.

Maria Miller MP speaking at a women’s equality protest in 2018. Photo: Avpics / Alamy Stock Photo

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MPs have hit out at the use of controversial gagging orders used by media organisations in a powerful Commons debate led by a backbench Conservative. 

In February, The Times reported that in 2018, ITN, which produces the news for Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV, had assured its female employees that it would cease using Non-Disclosure Agreements – so-called gagging orders – in cases related to discrimination.

Senior journalists were reportedly informed during a discussion with executives that the company would halt the use of non-disclosure agreements for discrimination complaints, which prevent individuals from discussing workplace disputes.

Following that meeting, news presenter Mary Nightingale shared in a message to the ITN Women WhatsApp group: “No more NDAs — ever. That’s a commitment. And an admission that their use was a shameful incident for ITN,” the paper reported. 

But the commitment was apparently not upheld. Maria Miller MP, the former culture secretary, has reportedly spoken to women who, after leaving Channel 4 News—produced by ITN—were subjected to these confidentiality clauses. 

ITN vigorously denies the claims that it still uses NDAs to silence discrimination and harassment complaints. 

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NDAs are common when people leave workplaces to protect “trade secrets” and internal company affairs – but they are discouraged when they are seen to conceal instances of sexual harassment and discrimination. 

Conservative MP and former Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee Maria Miller told the Commons on Tuesday it remained a live issue: “We cannot let the status quo reign… It’s only as a result of the bravery of some who have endured NDAs do we know the damage that they are causing, and I would like to pay tribute to all those people in the gallery and actually in Parliament as members who have bravely bravely spoken out publicly or privately on this matter.

“And this includes the public reporting about ITN newsroom incidents, including multiple reports of NDAs from Channel Four and Channel Five news….Particularly concerning [is]…using NDAs to cover up allegations of sexual harassment, disability discrimination, maternity discrimination, and much more. 

“[It is] particularly concerning [as] we rely on these news organisations to expose the truth. Yet all summer we have seen this be more and more media reports of the toxic environments that flourish and I myself have been approached by a number of whistleblowers.”

She added that because of the lack of transparency and the fear of speaking out by the use of “heavy” legal confidentiality clauses, “NDAs have no place in British workplaces if they stop people from the free exercise of their rights under the law.”

One MP branded it “hypocritical” for media outlets who report on cover-ups and harassment to use gagging orders themselves. 


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Labour MP Jess Phillips MP branded gagging orders “the literal tool of the abuser”. “”The law in our country makes it acceptable for a bully to stand in front of a member and his staff, and say ‘I’m bigger, better and stronger than you’. And in [Parliament], we say: you’ve got a point. He can shut you up. It will be happening to someone today, right now as we speak. Someone who is trying to speak up about something bad happening is being told you are weak and pathetic. It is a form of coercive control, violence and victimisation.”

Backbench amendments to the Government’s current Victims Bill seek to clamp down on the use for NDAs covering harassment and bullying – however it is not clear they will win Government support. 

Phillips, a prominent women’s rights campaigner, added: “We currently rely on media organisations to do this work for us to clean up businesses. We rely on victims to come forward and media organisations to report on it. I’m not entirely sure, from what I know about media organisations, that it shouldn’t be the Government who lead on this.”

A spokesperson for ITN told The Times in February the company “categorically rejects these former employee allegations in the strongest possible terms.”

They added: “We maintain a zero-tolerance approach to any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination, investigating any alleged incidents fully and taking appropriate action where necessary.

“ITN does not use NDAs for employees. There have been only a small number of settlement agreements over the past few years. The inclusion of confidentiality provisions is standard across the industry and agreed by mutual consent, in many cases at the request of the individual and their lawyer.

“This does not preclude any individual from whistleblowing where this is in the public interest.”

Asked whether the company still had active NDAs regarding discrimination and harassment, a spokesperson for ITN told Byline Times: “As outlined to Maria Miller MP in early 2022, no individual signing a settlement agreement with ITN will, as a matter of course, be asked to sign a confidentiality clause about the facts and circumstances surrounding their settlement.”

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