EXCLUSIVE: Channel 4 is facing fresh questions over how it dealt with bullying allegations against the stars of its hit series, Escape to the Chateau, after the emergence of a leaked recording featuring Angel Strawbridge hurling 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 that 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 a “f*****g c**t.”
Deadline has now obtained a copy of an audio recording of Angel that appears to show that this was not an isolated incident. In the clip, published below, she can be heard describing a member of the Escape to the Chateau film crew as a “f****d up little c**t.”
During the altercation, Angel questioned two producers about a delay to her schedule for the day. As her anger grew, she accused one of the individuals of posting images on Instagram of a man who had a likeness to her husband, Dick.
“Who is that inspired by when you’re f*****g working at the chateau? Just tell me that and then you can f*****g leave and this is me f*****g angry because I think you’re a f****d up little c**t,” she said.
The clip was recorded during filming on one of the first four seasons of Escape to the Chateau. Earlier in the audio, Angel said that her husband Dick talked to people like “s**t,” to which a producer responded: “And I don’t like that either.”
A representative for the Strawbridges declined to comment. The couple has previously denied allegations that they bullied 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 of the leaked audio, which contains uncensored language some may find offensive.
Dick and Angel have cultivated a warm, wholesome image on Escape to the Chateau, which follows their extraordinary efforts to renovate a 19th-century French country house. The show has been a big hit for Channel 4, drawing audiences of millions, and some producers have spoken favorably about their experience working on the project.
The leaked audio obtained by Deadline follows The Times of London publishing evidence in April 2021 of Dick and Angel swearing at producers. The altercations came as relations broke down between the Strawbridges and production outfit Spark Media Partners, prompting Channel 4 to move Escape to the Chateau 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 presented with evidence by the newspaper, it did not formally examine the historical claims.
This was despite The Times report prompting others to write to Ian Katz, Channel 4’s Chief Content Officer, to complain about their experiences of working with the Strawridges.
Deadline has seen an email to Katz from Claire Barratt, who co-presented 2018’s The Biggest Little Railway In The World with Dick Strawbridge. She expressed her misgivings about his alleged conduct and treatment of contributors on the show, which was commissioned before Katz joined Channel 4.
Sources said Katz acknowledged the concerns and pointed to improvements in its processes. Channel 4 also sought reassurances about the Strawbridges’ conduct from Two Rivers Media, which had recently taken on the Escape to the Chateau production contract and was upbeat about its experience of working with the couple.
Two producers, who worked on the first four seasons of Escape to the Chateau for Spark Media, insist that Channel 4 was verbally warned about the Strawbridges’ conduct and was given specific examples of their alleged behavior.
“We felt like we had reported them to the channel as extremely difficult to work with,” said one person. The second source added: “The way Channel 4 dealt with this was like it didn’t exist.”
A senior Channel 4 insider acknowledged that “allegations of negative behavior” were raised informally by Spark Media, but no written complaint was made. This person said Channel 4 stood by the statement given to The Times, in which it said it was unaware of accusations about the Strawbridges using abusive language.
Channel 4 carried out an internal review of its bullying and harassment complaints procedures in 2021. This made clear that Channel 4 should investigate claims of wrongdoing, even if raised informally.
In a statement, Channel 4 said: “Channel 4 is taking an active role in challenging unacceptable behaviour in our industry. Following a review of our processes in 2021 we have made it easier to raise complaints both formally and informally.
“We require all our production partners to follow our Supplier Code of Conduct and when concerns are raised with us, they will be taken seriously and action will happen to ensure they are investigated and addressed appropriately. There is always more to do and alongside our suppliers we are committed to building safe, inclusive and professional working environments.”
Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon said in 2017 that the broadcaster has “zero tolerance” for bullying and harassment. She oversaw an update to its Supplier Code of Conduct, which says the broadcaster does not tolerate “offensive behaviour of any kind.”