EXCLUSIVE: Channel 4 faces fresh questions about how it handled bullying allegations against the stars of its hit series, escape to the castle after the appearance of a leaked recording in which Angel Strawbridge used offensive language at a producer.
Deadline revealed last week that Channel 4 had cut ties with Dick and Angel Strawbridge following an independent investigation into their conduct, but sources argued the broadcaster should have taken action against the couple sooner.
Channel 4 has a “zero tolerance” approach to bullying and harassment, but did not fully investigate evidence that came to light in 2021, which purported to show Angel calling a producer “f*****gc** you”.
Deadline has now obtained a copy of an audio recording from Angel which seems to show that this was not an isolated incident. In the clip, posted below, she can be heard describing a member of the Escape to the castle film crew as a “little fucked up bastard”.
During the altercation, Angel questioned two producers about a delay in their schedule for the day. As her anger grew, he accused one of the people of posting images on Instagram of a man who looked like her husband, Dick.
“Who are you inspired by when you’re fucking working at the chateau? Just tell me that and then you can walk away and this is me fucking mad because I think you’re fucking fucked up kid,” she said. .
The clip was recorded during the filming of one of the first four seasons of Escape to the castle. Earlier in the audio, Angel said her husband’s Dick was talking to people like “shit,” to which a producer responded, “And I don’t like that either.”
A representative for the Strawbridges declined to comment. The pair have previously denied allegations that they intimidated or were aggressive towards crew members. Channel 4 declined to comment on the audio, but said it was committed to “safe, inclusive and professional working environments”.
Below is an excerpt from the leaked audio, which contains uncensored language that some may find offensive.
Dick and Angel have cultivated a warm and wholesome image in Escape to the castle, which follows his extraordinary efforts to renovate a 19th-century French country house. The show has been a huge success for Channel 4, drawing audiences in the millions, and some producers have spoken favorably of his experience working on the project.
Leaked audio obtained by Deadline follows The Times of London publishing evidence in April 2021 of Dick and Angel cursing at the producers. The altercations ensued as relations broke down between the Strawbridges and production team Spark Media Partners, leading to Channel 4 relocating. Escape to the castle to a new company: Two Rivers Media.
Questions for channel 4
Channel 4 told The Times it was “not aware” of the allegations against the Strawbridges, but when the paper presented it with evidence it did not formally examine the historical claims.
This was despite The Times report prompting others to write to Ian Katz, Channel 4’s director of content, to complain about their experiences working with the Strawridges.
Deadline has spotted an email to Katz from Claire Barratt, who co-hosted 2018 The biggest little railway in the world with Dick Strawbridge. He expressed doubts about his alleged conduct and treatment of collaborators on the show, which he took over before Katz joined Channel 4.
The sources said Katz acknowledged the concerns and pointed to improvements in his processes. Channel 4 also sought assurances about the conduct of the Strawbridges of Two Rivers Media, which had recently taken over the Escape to the castle production contract and was optimistic about his experience working with the pair.
Two producers, who worked on the first four seasons of Escape to the castle for Spark Media, he insists that Channel 4 was verbally warned about the Strawbridges’ conduct and given specific examples of their alleged behaviour.
“We felt that we had informed the channel that they were extremely difficult to work with,” one person said. The second source added: “The way Channel 4 handled this was like it didn’t exist.”
A senior Channel 4 insider acknowledged that “allegations of negative behavior” were informally raised by Spark Media, but no written complaint was made. This person said Channel 4 stood by the statement given to The Times, saying it was unaware of the allegations about the Strawbridges’ use of abusive language.
Channel 4 conducted an internal review of its harassment and harassment reporting procedures in 2021. This made it clear that Channel 4 must investigate reports of wrongdoing, even if they are raised informally.
In a statement, Channel 4 said: “Channel 4 is taking an active role in challenging unacceptable behavior in our industry. Following a review of our processes in 2021, we have made it easier to make complaints both formally and informally.
“We require all of our production partners to follow our Supplier Code of Conduct and when concerns are raised with us, they will be taken seriously and steps will be taken to ensure they are properly investigated and addressed. There is always more to do and, together with our suppliers, we are committed to building safe, inclusive and professional work environments.”
Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon said in 2017 that the broadcaster has “zero tolerance” for bullying and harassment. He oversaw an update to its Supplier Code of Conduct, which says the station does not tolerate “offensive behavior of any kind.”
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