Ofcom has slammed the BBC’s “lack of transparency” after the broadcaster attempted to block the regulator’s investigation into an impartiality row.
BBC director general Tony Hall last week reversed the corporation’s decision to partially uphold a complaint into Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty over her comments about US President Donald Trump.
Following its own investigation, the media watchdog decided that the exchange with co-presenter Dan Walker did not breach its rules over due impartiality.
However, Ofcom blasted the BBC’s “lack of transparency” after the broadcaster refused to give additional information and disputed the regulator’s right to launch its own probe.
“I am disappointed that Ofcom is assessing a broadcast with a view potentially to undertaking an investigation for which it has no clear jusdication, rather than handling the complaints it has received about the programme in the normal way,” wrote David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards.
In emails published by the regulator, Jordan argued that Ofcom did not have any “self-standing power” to investigate a BBC programme for breaches of content standards.
Under regulatory rules, Ofcom only intervenes in complaints processes if viewers are unsatisfied with the BBC’s response, other than in “exceptional circumstances”.
But the watchdog maintained it was in the public interest to assess the case “given the significant amount of public concern”.
The ruling comes as a further blow for the public service broadcaster, which has faced criticism over its obligation to remain impartial.
After announcing an embarrassing U-turn in the Munchetty case, BBC boss Tony Hall was forced to clarify that the corporation was not impartial on racism.
Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s group director for content and media policy, said: “We have serious concerns around the transparency of the BBC’s complaints process, which must command the confidence of the public.
“We’ll be requiring the BBC to be more transparent about its processes and compliance findings as a matter of urgency.”
In response, the BBC said: “We note Ofcom’s finding and the fact they agree with the director general’s decision.”
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