TV watchdog Ofcom has said it will be urgently addressing the BBC’s “lack of transparency” over its treatment of the Naga Munchetty case.
Ruling that the BBC Breakfast instalment featuring the presenter’s comments regarding US President Donald Trump were “duly impartial”, Ofcom said the show did not breach the broadcasting code and would not be investigated.
However, the regulator also raised concerns the broadcaster had not only been unclear about why it found Munchetty’s remarks in breach of its Editorial Guidelines, but also why BBC Director-General Tony Hall overturned this ruling.
Although the BBC has published a summary of their considerations, Ofcom said they would be “addressing the BBC’s lack of transparency as a matter of urgency”.
The incident refers to a BBC Breakfast show on 17th July this year, in which Munchetty addressed Donald Trump’s remarks that “progressive Democrat Congresswomen” should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.
Discussing the comments, Munchetty told 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
In its ruling, Ofcom said that Munchetty’s comments were impartial as her “own experience of racism was not a matter of political controversy”.
The report added: “Due impartiality does not mean that every argument and every facet of every argument has to be represented in a programme. A news item that discusses language widely understood as racist does not require a broadcaster to reflect an alternative viewpoint defending such language.”
The organisation also revealed it had received 18 complaints about the programme, the “majority” of which objected to the BBC’s initial ruling against Munchetty.
Alongside the report, Ofcom also published its correspondence with the BBC about the incident. In these emails, the BBC disputed that Ofcom had “any self-standing power” to investigate the issue.