Fremantle, the production company behind “Britain’s Got Talent,” has issued an apology and reached a settlement with David Walliams following the leak of comments he made during his tenure as a judge on the show from 2012 to 2022.
During the recording of an episode, the comedian reportedly made sexual and derogatory remarks about contestants. In response, the comedian, known as David Edward Williams, took legal action against Fremantle, citing misuse of private information and violations of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018.
Court documents from the high court revealed that David accused Fremantle of causing him psychiatric harm and financial loss. The production company has since offered an apology and announced the resolution as “amicable.”
But what exactly happened between “Britain’s Got Talent” and David? Join us as we take a deep dive into this story and find the truth!
Let’s start at the beginning—the reason there is such an uproar over privacy and why so many people feel disillusioned by the folks they admire on TV: inappropriate and mean comments made by David Walliams.
These comments that were leaked truly upset audiences and fans of both David and “Britain’s Got Talent.”
As one of the UK’s best-known TV personalities and the author of children’s books, the things he said were quite unexpected.
Regrettably, David was recorded making offensive remarks during an audition recording in 2020.
In one incident, after an older person auditioning engaged in light-hearted chitchat with the judges and made a jest about David, the comedian allegedly referred to him using offensive language when he wouldn’t be heard. He called the contestant a c-word three times.
These comments were captured by microphones that were meant to record discussions between judges, potentially intended for broadcast on “Britain’s Got Talent” or its spin-off shows, known for featuring honest and blunt comments the judges made between recordings of auditions.
Another incident involved David’s comments about a contestant shortly after her audition ended.
He remarked that she resembled a relatively uninteresting woman you meet in the bar who thinks you want to sleep with them but you’re not interested. He phrased it rather crudely, though
David continued to rant, adding that even if he was aroused, his desire would have disappeared completely. Again, this was phrased rudely.
In the legal proceedings, lawyers for David and the production company that created “Britain’s Got Talent,” argued that these comments were part of a private conversation, and comments should never have been broadcast.
The incidents shed light on the challenges of maintaining privacy in a televised setting, and the case underscores the need for a careful balance between candid interactions and the public nature of reality television.
David later issued a statement in which he apologised for the comments he made. He stated that what he said was disrespectful but also made sure to emphasise that the conversations were private and should not have been shared with anyone else.
The court documents reveal that David has been grappling with suicidal thoughts since his departure from “Britain’s Got Talent,” amid claims of intrusive surveillance by the show’s producers.
In a £10 million High Court showdown, the fired comedian alleges that Fremantle Media recorded, transcribed, and retained private conversations for a decade, including moments outside the public eye.
In a powerful opening statement, David accuses Fremantle of an unlawful data protection breach on an extensive scale. He contends that the production company amassed private and sensitive information from conversations held during his tenure on the popular ITV series.
The lawsuit mentions his fellow judges, Simon Cowell, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden, alleging that they were also monitored in a similar manner by production staff.
Seeking £1 million for his lost earnings from the prime-time ITV show and an additional £1.7 million for the past year, David aims to secure £3.4 million to cover anticipated future losses over the next two years. This brings the total claim to £6.1 million.
Additionally, he is pursuing unspecified damages for psychiatric harm, distress, upset, loss of control over his private information, and legal costs, potentially totalling up to £10 million.
The legal document, spanning 21 pages, discloses that David, unbeknownst to him, had his microphone continuously recording throughout filming days, even during breaks and visits to the restroom.
The recordings, amounting to 1,700 hours of audio over ten years and 145 episodes, were transcribed and made available to Simon Cowell’s co-producer firm Syco upon request.
The lawsuit contends that private matters, including heart-to-hearts with Alesha about marriage, divorce, personal struggles, and political views, were recorded without David’s consent, causing distress upon discovery.
The breach of privacy, according to his legal team, has significantly impacted his ability to perform. Fearful of potential leaks and the loss of spontaneity, David asserts that he feels vulnerable entering a studio, hindering his capacity to express humour in his signature style.
The comedian emphasizes that this breach has not only affected his professional identity, but also taken a toll on his personal well-being.
The extent of the surveillance came to light when David’s remarks about two contestants were leaked, leading to a published review by The Guardian of transcripts covering three days at the London Palladium in January 2020.
If #walliams sues, shouldn’t THE VICTIMS be entitled to sue should they wish! Where is the voice for the victims in all of this! There is an absolute potential here for breach of duty of care!
David Walliams, employed by FremantleMedia as a judge on BGT, ‘allegedly’ ridiculed… https://t.co/WhJgX1FgNd
— Katie Waissel (@katiewaissel24) September 27, 2023
David’s lawsuit sheds light on the significant impact the leaked comments have had on his career. The fallout resulted in the withdrawal of an invitation to read at the Commonwealth Writing Competition with Queen Camilla at Buckingham Palace, and his earnings plummeted from £3.7 million in 2022 to just £101,800 in the first five months of the current year.
Amid this tumultuous period, David notes receiving only one new work booking, underscoring the catastrophic consequences for his reputation and career.
The loss of his contract for the new season of the show, subsequently filled by Bruno Tonioli, added to the challenges, leading to the cancellation of numerous TV appearances and programs, including a podcast with Matt Lucas, the Jonathan Ross Show, and West End musicals.
The lawsuit outlines how this series of events has left the comedian grappling with a return of severe depression, including active suicidal thoughts.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Mark Collins, who has been treating David for an extended period, describes the depression as possibly the worst since their initial meeting. The leak of the transcripts is identified as having a profound and severe effect on David’s mental health, manifesting in severe sleep problems and uncontrollable negative thoughts.
David has paid a legal fee of £10,569, seeking unlimited damages exceeding £200,000 for the breach of his data protection rights.
As part of his demands, he insists that Fremantle destroy all recordings and transcripts associated with the alleged breach.
This legal battle underscores the extensive repercussions on David’s personal and professional life, emphasizing the profound toll it has taken on his mental well-being.
It’s unclear if the settlement between David and “Britain’s Got Talent” has made things easier for him. Although there are many reports about this settlement, it’s unknown if David got the amount he wanted, as the agreed terms haven’t been made public.