Britain’s Got Talent production company settles with David Walliams over comment leak

Britain’s Got Talent production company settles with David Walliams over comment leak

Britain’s Got Talent production company Fremantle has agreed a settlement with David Walliams and apologised after off-camera remarks the comic made about contestants were leaked.

The Little Britain creator appeared on the ITV talent show between 2012 and 2022, but left after apologising for making “disrespectful comments” about auditioning contestants during filming breaks in January 2020 at the London Palladium.

The remarks came to light in November 2022 after a transcript was leaked to The Guardian. In September, Walliams sued Fremantle for misuse of private information and for breaching UK General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.

On Monday, the production company shared a statement announcing that they had reached a settlement with Walliams.

A Fremantle spokesperson said: “We are sincerely sorry that his private conversations when a judge on Britain’s Got Talent were published, and the great distress this caused David.

“We have reviewed our production practices on the show to ensure they fully respect the expectations of our talent whilst satisfying the requirements of the show. We have enjoyed a great relationship with David over many years.

“We thank David for being an important part of the Britain’s Got Talent family and the enduring success of the show and hope to have opportunities to work with him in the future. We are pleased that we have achieved an amicable resolution of this dispute with David.”

Walliams, pictured in June, apologised at the time for his ‘disrespectful comments’

(Getty Images)

When the transcripts of his “private conversations” on BGT were leaked last winter, Walliams shared a statement to The Independent apologising.

“I would like to apologise to the people I made disrespectful comments about during breaks in filming for Britain’s Got Talent in 2020,” he said.

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“These were private conversations and – like most conversations with friends – were never intended to be shared. Nevertheless, I am sorry.”

He was replaced on the judging panel by former Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli.

In High Court documents released last month, Walliams accused Fremantle of recording, transcribing and retaining private conversations for a decade.

According to court documents, Walliams believed producers “retained transcripts… of everything he said” during his time on the show and claimed the defendant, Fremantle Media, “must be the ultimate source of the transcripts” that were leaked.

According to the documents, Walliams and the other judges on the show would not usually remove their microphones – including when they went to the bathroom – until filming had ended for the day. However, the children’s author assumed he was only being recorded when contestants were on stage or during behind-the-scenes filming.

Walliams (third from right) at ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ auditions in 2019

(Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

Walliams alleged private conversations, including him talking about his struggles with food addiction, his father’s death and his wife leaving him, could have been recorded by the production company.

He also claimed that Fremantle had caused him psychiatric harm and financial loss. The 52-year-old claimed that he has been having “active suicidal thoughts” since leaving the show, and has “lost the ability to be funny” due to fears about his comments being leaked without his consent.

The lawsuit detailed how Walliams has suffered “a return of severe depression, including suicidal thoughts”. In a report, consultant psychiatrist Dr Mark Collins, who has treated Walliams for years, said the comedian’s depression was “possibly the worst since I first met him”.

Collins said the leak of the transcripts “has had a profound, severe and, at times, very worrying effect on his mental health”.

Walliams also claimed his earnings from television and other public appearances had been “very severely reduced” as a result of negative publicity surrounding the story.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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