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BBC Director General reverses decision on Munchetty

Naga Munchetty

BBC Director General Lord Hall has reversed a decision to partially uphold a complaint against Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty.

Munchetty was found to have breached the BBC’s guidelines on impartiality because of comments she made about a tweet from Donald Trump in July.

Speaking on the morning of July 17th, 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.”

A complaint against her was partially upheld by the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit, which found she had criticised the President’s motives in saying four female Democrats should “go back” to “places from which they came”.

However, Lord Hall emailed staff on Monday to say he had “personally” reviewed the decision of the complaints unit and found Munchetty’s words were not “sufficient to merit a partial uphold”. He added that “racism is racism and the BBC is not impartial on the topic”.


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The reversal comes after dozens of BAME actors and broadcasters wrote an open letter to the BBC urging it to overturn the decision.

The saga began on July 14th, when Trump tweeted about Democrat politicians Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” he wrote.

Three days later, Munchetty and co-presenter Dan Walker discussed the story live on the set of BBC Breakfast, which is filmed at MediaCityUK in Salford.   

Walker said “it feels like a thought-out strategy to strengthen his position”, to which Munchetty replied: “And it is not enough to do it just to get attention. He’s in a responsible position. Anyway I’m not here to give my opinion.”

A viewer complained to the BBC about BOTH presenters, yet the Executive Complaints Unit focused only on Munchetty at the third and final stages of its process. It was this that particularly upset many of the broadcasters who signed the open letter to the BBC.

The complaint was partially upheld on the grounds that the BBC’s editorial guidelines “do not allow for journalists to… give their opinions about the individual making the remarks or their motives for doing so”.

In an email to staff on Monday, Lord Hall wrote: “Many of you asked that I personally review the decision of the ECU. I have done so. I have looked carefully at all the arguments that have been made and assessed all of the materials.

“I have also examined the complaint itself. It was only ever in a limited way that there was found to be a breach of our guidelines. These are often finely balanced and difficult judgements.

“But, in this instance, I don’t think Naga’s words were sufficient to merit a partial uphold of the complaint around the comments she made. There was never any sanction against Naga and I hope this step makes that absolutely clear.”

He added that Munchetty was an “exceptional” journalist and that he has asked editorial and leadership teams “to discuss how we manage live exchanges on air around these topics in the future.”

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