Over 40 BAME actors, presenters and broadcasters – including Lenny Henry, Adrian Lester and Gina Yashere – have signed an open letter urging the BBC to reverse its decision to uphold a complaint against Breakfast host Naga Munchetty.
The BBC found that Munchetty had breached its guidelines on impartiality after she reacted to comments from US president Donald Trump in which he told “progressive Democrat Congresswomen” to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.
Speaking on the show on 17th July, Munchetty said in a conversation with co-host Dan Walker: “Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism.
“Now I’m not accusing anyone of anything here, but you know what certain phrases mean. I can imagine lots of people in this country will be feeling absolutely furious that a man in that position feels it’s okay to skirt the lines with using language like that.”
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) July 17, 2019
The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit upheld the complaint saying that although “it was entirely legitimate for Ms Munchetty, when pressed by Mr Walker for a personal response, to reply in terms which reflected her own experience of racism[…] she went on to comment critically on the possible motive for, and potential consequences of, the President’s words. Judgements of that kind are for the audience to make, and the exchange fell short of due impartiality in that respect.”
However, a source told RadioTimes.com that Munchetty would not be facing any further action over the comments.
Now, the signatories of the letter are asking that BBC management “issue their support for journalists and acknowledge there can be no expectation of ‘impartiality’ over expressions and experiences of racism”. The letter adds that broadcasting regulatory bodies such as the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit and Ofcom should “address their own levels of diversity and increase transparency as to how they reach their decisions”.
“We, the undersigned group of black people who work in the media and broadcasting in the UK, strongly condemn this finding and assert that it amounts to both a misunderstanding of the BBC’s editorial guidelines, and a form of racially discriminatory treatment towards BAME people who work on programming,” it reads.
Read the letter in full here, and see the full list of signatories below.
Aaron Roach Bridgeman
Holly Henry-Long, Diana Evans
Katrina Marshall Beharry
Dope Black Dads
Jordan Jarrett Bryan