BBC: Naga Munchetty had the right to speak out about Trump racism
BBC bosses have said they are not impartial on racism after a decision to rebuke Naga Munchetty for criticising Donald Trump sparked a fierce backlash.
The Breakfast presenter was found to have been in breach of editorial guidelines while discussing remarks by the US president that she said were “embedded in racism”.
On Friday, director general Lord Tony Hall and other BBC executives sent a letter to corporation staff assuring them that “racism is racism” and that “diversity matters hugely”.
The letter states in part: “You will have heard a lot of comment over the past few days about the BBC and the reporting of racism.
“The BBC is not impartial on racism. Racism is not an opinion and it is not a matter for debate. Racism is racism.
“Naga Munchetty – one of our stars – was completely within her rights to speak about the tweets of Donald Trump which have been widely condemned as racist.”
BBC News’ editorial director Kamal Ahmed also tweeted: “We completely back her in saying ‘as a woman of colour, to go back where I came from, that was embedded in racism’.”
It comes after dozens of black and Asian journalists and broadcasters urged the BBC to reconsider its ruling over Munchetty earlier on Friday.
Actor and comedian Sir Lenny Henry and Channel 4 newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy were joined by the likes of actor Adrian Lester and filmmaker Asif Kapadia in writing the open letter which was published in The Guardian.
It asked the broadcaster to “issue support for journalists and acknowledge there can be no expectation of ‘impartiality’ over experiences of racism”.
The letter, which was signed by Sky News presenter Gillian Joseph, also asks that the bodies that oversee complaints about broadcasting, such as the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) and Ofcom “address their own levels of diversity and increase transparency as to how they reach their decisions”.
The group said that the ruling is “both a misunderstanding of the BBC’s editorial guidelines, and a form of racially discriminatory treatment towards BAME people who work on programming”.
The letter ended saying it believed that “in addition to being deeply flawed, illegal and contrary to the spirit and purpose of public broadcasting, the BBC’s current position will have a profound effect on future diversity within the BBC”.
The ECU ruled that Munchetty breached conduct when she condemned comments made by Mr Trump when he told female Democrat politicians to “go back” to their own countries back in July.
Speaking to her co-host Dan Walker on BBC Breakfast on 17 July, Ms Munchetty said: “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.”
Mr Trump had shared a slew of tweets in which he made references to rival politicians Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.
Following Munchetty’s on-air remarks at the time, a spokeswoman for the BBC said that the ECU ruled that “her comments went beyond what the guidelines allow for.”
On Friday, Ofcom released a statement saying they had released complaints about BBC Breakfast.
“We have recently received complaints relating to this programme and we are assessing the content against our own broadcasting rules,” the statement read.