BBC Responds to Claims of Indifference to Racism
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) responded to claims of indifference to racism after it upheld complaints toward a newsreader who expressed personal views towards President Donald Trump.
On July 17, in an interview with a supporter of the president on daytime television, presenter Naga Munchetty criticized Trump’s treatment of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14), Ilhan Omar (D-MN5), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI13), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA7), saying that she was “Furious. Absolutely furious” over the president’s words, adding that “every time I have been told, as a woman of color, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism,” BBC reports.
On September 25, BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit found that Munchetty breached the corporation’s guidelines, which “do not allow for journalists to give their opinions about the individual making the remarks or their motives for doing so—in this case President Trump.” Officials noted that “judgments of that kind are for the audience to make, and the exchange fell short of due impartiality in that respect.” According to the Telegraph, despite upholding the complaint, no official disciplinary action will be taken against Munchetty.
Since then, various groups and individuals have criticized the BBC’s upholding of the complaint.
According to BBC, on September 27, 44 well-known public figures published an open letter to BBC advising its management to “issue their support for journalists and acknowledge there can be no expectation of ‘impartiality’ over expressions and experiences of racism.” Writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch, who helped organize the letter, said that it is “ludicrous to say it’s fine for a presenter to express her own experience of racism but she shouldn’t cast judgment on the person being racist.”
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid tweeted, “This is ridiculous. It’s perfectly understandable why she said what she did,” while Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn insisted that BBC must “explain this astonishing decision,” the Independent reports.
In light of the criticism, BBC’s director-general, Tony Hall, attempted to clarify recent events in an email on September 27. According to the Guardian, Hall wrote, “The BBC is not impartial on racism. Racism is not an opinion and it is not a matter for debate. Racism is racism.” Hall voiced support for the premise of Munchetty’s grievance, saying, “we completely back her in saying, ‘as a woman of color, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism,’” though he also explains that “the very limited finding was not about Naga’s comments on racism. That part of the complaint was rejected,” suggesting that it was Munchetty’s singling out of Trump that was subject to sanction.
Britain’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) has announced its intention to review the situation. If it finds that Munchetty has breached Ofcom rules during the assessment, it will launch a formal investigation, the Independent notes.