Chi Presses OfCom to confirm BBC censured Naga Munchetty for upholding Broadcasting Code

Press Release                                                    Wednesday 23 October 2019

OfCom confirm BBC censured Naga Munchetty for upholding Broadcasting Code

Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, wrote to Ofcom in September over the BBC upholding a complaint against Naga Munchetty.[i] She argued that the BBC Breakfast presenter was not just within her rights to challenge President Trumps remarks, she was actually required to by the Broadcasting Code’s rules to challenge ‘derogatory treatment’, and yesterday OfCom responded to confirm this.

Chi Onwurah wrote to OfCom, to point out that the presenter’s actions actually upheld Rule 3.3:

I am concerned that this appears to be in direct contradiction of OfCom’s Broadcasting Code and I fear broadcasters and viewers may be confused as a consequence. I am familiar with the Code as I helped write a version of it when I worked for OfCom from 2004 to 2010  

[…]

The code says:

‘Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups religions or communities, must not be included in television and radio services except where it is justified by context.’

A justifying contextual factor in the Code[ii] is to challenge the derogatory material, and OfCom agreed that the presenter was following the code by challenging the statements made by the President. Their response on Monday stated that:

“The BBC did comply with the Code as, in this news item, both presenters challenged the views expressed by President Trump and the use of language which is widely understood to be racist”[iii]

Chi Onwurah MP:

“Not only was this a failure by the BBC to apply rules over impartiality correctly, as OfCom’s report stated, but Naga Munchetty was punished for following the rules on challenging the derogatory treatment from Trump. The BBC’s first instinct should be to defend its presenters and journalists when they challenge racism.”

Chi Onwurah MP Tweeted:

“Pleased @ofcom have replied to my letter confirming that not only was @BBCNaga within her rights to challenge Trumps remarks, the Broadcasting Code actually required that they be challenged. It’s a pity @bbc couldn’t figure that out for itself #MegaFail” [iv]

The BBC had previously overturned the complaint as it was found that the presenter had not breached impartiality rules, it is now clear she was actively upholding the requirements for broadcasting.[v]

[i] Chi original letter https://chionwurahmp.com/2019/09/bbc-finding-re-naga-munchetty-criticising-presidents-trumps-racist-remarks/

[ii] OfCom broadcasting code – https://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv-radio-and-on-demand/broadcast-codes/broadcast-code

[iii] Ofcom Response 21st October: https://chionwurahmp.com/2019/10/9469/

[iv] Link to tweet: https://twitter.com/ChiOnwurah/status/1186670449138262022?s=20

[v] Guardian article for context of complaint https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/sep/30/bbc-racism-row-naga-munchetty-complaint-was-also-about-dan-walker

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