A LABOUR MP and a host of black celebrities and journalists challenged the BBC’s decision to uphold a complaint made against presenter Naga Munchetty.
Several public figures and broadcasters have written an open letter to the BBC demanding it reconsider its actions, while Chi Onwurah has written to Ofcom to “complain about the BBC’s censoring of [Munchetty] for challenging racism”.
Munchetty was found to have breached BBC guidelines on July 17 when she made comments about the conduct US president Donald Trump during BBC Breakfast.
Trump had caused outrage when he published several tweets in which he asked why several congresswomen of colour didn’t “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.
In her letter to the broadcasting regulator, Onwurah wrote: “I am concerned that this appears to be in direct contradiction with Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code and I fear broadcasters and viewers may be confused as a result.”
Afua Hirsch, Sir Lenny Henry, Adrian Lester, Charlene White and Gina Yashere were all among the signatories of a letter published in The Guardian today criticising the BBC’s decision to uphold a singular complaint made against Munchetty.
The letter highlighted how Munchetty’s co-presenter Dan Walker invited her to add her personal commentary to the talking point. She 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.”
No complaint was made against Walker.
“We, the undersigned group of people of colour who work in the media and broadcasting in the UK, strongly condemn this finding and assert that it amounts to 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 reads.
The signatories said that the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) does not reflect the diverse cultural views in the BAME communities in the UK and has failed to acknowledge that racism in not a valid opinion on which an “impartial” stance can or should be maintained.
Referencing the ECU’s statement, the letter said: “To suggest a journalist can ‘talk about her own experiences of racism’ while withholding a critique on the author of racism (in this case President Trump) has the ludicrous implication that such racism may be legitimate and should be contemplated as such.”
Echoing a comment made yesterday by BBC correspondent Sangita Myska, who said many of her colleagues were worried about voicing concerns about the ECU’s decision in case they also faced consequences, the authors of the letter said that some BBC journalists had contacted them privately.
“We note the number of BBC journalists who have contacted us privately to express their concern at the climate of fear at the organisation, their feeling of being censored, and their apprehension at the consequences of their speaking out in support of this statement,” the letter reads.
Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Ria Chatterjee and Elaine Dunkley also signed the letter which can be viewed in full here.