The BBC has made the right choice for the wrong reason.
Director General Tony Hall has announced the retraction of a decision to censure Naga Munchetty over comments she made about racism by Donald Trump – after the corporation’s complaints unit was revealed to have acted in a racist way itself.
The retraction happened only after leaked information showed the executive complaints unit had ignored the part of the complaint that referred to Dan Walker, as well as Ms Munchetty.
She is one of the BBC’s most prominent minority ethnic journalists, while he may be described as “White British”.
This raises a question about racism in the BBC. Why was the part of the complaint against Mr Walker ignored while that against Ms Munchetty was upheld?
And why did the BBC try to cover it up? This part of the matter was only revealed after the text of the complaint was leaked to other news media.
It seems clear that the BBC has a problem with institutional racism. This Writer hopes that Ofcom, which is currently investigating BBC impartiality – or the lack of it, has taken note.
The BBC has reversed its decision to sanction BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty for breaking impartiality guidelines with her comments about Donald Trump, following a staff uprising against the ruling and enormous political pressure.
The U-turn over censuring her came after the Guardian obtained leaked internal correspondence casting doubts on public claims about the complaints process made by a senior BBC executive, as he attempted to explain why Munchetty’s co-host Dan Walker had escaped punishment, despite taking part in the same discussion.
The BBC’s editorial standards director, David Jordan, said Walker could not have been investigated because the single viewer complaint which led to the ruling did not mention the male presenter. “The simple fact is we haven’t had a complaint about Dan Walker’s role,” he said in one interview. “The complaint was about Naga Munchetty.”
However, copies of the viewer’s complaint leaked to the Guardian show that the original correspondence was explicitly about both Munchetty and Walker, leading to internal anger from BBC employees who demanded that women and minority ethnic journalists should be treated fairly by the corporation.
On Monday night, BBC employees said the issue had reignited wider concerns about on-screen diversity at the corporation and how the BBC treated prominent senior white, male journalists differently to staff from a minority ethnic background.
The decision also raises major questions about the BBC’s ability to enforce its impartiality guidelines in the future, given the director general has now shown himself willing to intervene and overturn ruling by the semi-independent complaints unit in face of public pressure.
Oh, and is Ofcom still examining the complaint with reference to its own rules and regulations?
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