Ofcom has found that Naga Munchetty’s remarks on BBC Breakfast about a tweet by Donald Trump would not have breached its due impartiality rules had it fully investigated complaints made to it.
The BBC’s own executive complaints unit partially upheld a viewer complaint against Munchetty over the 17 July programme, prompting a backlash from prominent ethnic minority media figures.
It centred on an exchange between Munchetty and co-presenter Dan Walker about a tweet by Trump in which he said a group of US congresswomen of colour should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.
Munchetty said that in her experience such comments were “embedded in racism”, adding: “Now I’m not accusing anyone of anything here, but you know what certain phrases mean.”
Ofcom said today it had received 18 complaints about the programme, the majority of which objected to the BBC upholding the original complaint.
Two people had complained to the broadcast regulator about BBC director general Lord Hall’s decision to overturn the ruling, however.
“Our assessment is that, overall, the programme was duly impartial,” Ofcom said.
“After carefully considering all the contextual factors, such as the format of the programme, the nature of the exchange and the specific remarks, we did not consider that Naga Munchetty and Dan Walker’s discussion would have breached the due impartiality rules in the Broadcasting Code.”
The regulator said that as such the programme did not raise issues warranting an investigation, but it had decided to publish the reasons for its assessment “given the significant public concern about this case” and to “provide guidance” to the BBC and other broadcasters.
Ofcom also criticised the BBC for having failed to so far publish the reasoning both behind the ECU’s initial decision and Lord Hall’s move to overturn it.
“We will be addressing the BBC’s lack of transparency as a matter of urgency,” it said.
The BBC’s complaints framework is approved by Ofcom. It published details of the ECU’s decision to partially uphold a viewer complaint against Munchetty in the same way as it handles all other complaints.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We note Ofcom’s finding and the fact they agree with the director general’s decision.”
The BBC receives a quarter of a million contacts from members of the public every year. It is understood the corporation would require extra resources to be able to publish more information about complaints as a matter of course.
Picture: Ian West/PA Wire