A group of 150 black broadcasters, celebrities and actors have written a letter to demand the BBC reverse a decision to partially uphold a complaint against BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty.
The group, which includes Sir Lenny Henry and Gillian Joseph from SkyNews are angered by the BBC’s decision to criticise Ms Munchetty who accused US President Donald Trump of being ’embedded in racism’.
Also among those to sign the letter are actors Adrian Lester and David Harewood, Channel 4 News anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy and comedienne Gina Yashere.
Meanwhile Chancellor Sajid Javid also backed the presenter, calling the decision ‘ridiculous’ and adding Ms Munchetty’s reaction was ‘perfectly understandable’.
Trump had tweeted that four high profile politicians should ‘go back’ to where they came from.
The letter, released to the media this morning, said: ‘We, the undersigned group of black people 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.’
It added: ‘Racism is not a valid opinion on which an ‘impartial’ stance can or should be maintained;
‘For communities and individuals who experience racist abuse – including Munchetty – being expected to treat racist ideas as potentially valid has devastating and maybe illegal consequences for our dignity and ability to work in a professional environment, as well as being contrary to race equality and human rights legislation;
‘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.’
The signatories also said the BBC decision sets a dangerous precedent for BME employees in the future.
It said: ‘We believe that in addition to being deeply flawed, illegal and contrary to the spirit and purpose of public broadcasting, the BBC’s current position will have a profound effect on future diversity within the BBC.
‘To suggest that future BAME broadcasters will be hired at the corporation on the premise that they remain ‘impartial’ about how they feel about their experiences of racism is ludicrous.
‘To require journalists of all ethnicities and races to endorse racism as a legitimate ‘opinion’ is an abrogation of responsibility of the most serious nature.’
Former Channel 5 News presenter Marverine Cole also signed the letter and today tweeted her support for Ms Munchetty.
She wrote: ‘Together we stand. I signed this letter. Racism should be called out. It’s ridiculous when someone calling out racism is reprimanded.’
Marcus Ryder, Chief international editor of Chinese broadcaster CGTN Digital, added: ‘Proud to be signatory, along with over 150 other BAME broadcasters and journalists, demanding change following the Naga judgement that she broke BBC editorial guidelines.
‘Important that people know what we’re demanding: 1. BBC’s complaint unit reviews its judgement
‘2. BBC management come out in support of Naga, its BAME staff & commitment to diversity
‘3. All broadcast complaint bodies ECU, Ofcom etc should be represntatively (sic) diverse & transparent.’
But some other high profile broadcasters have supported the BBC and said impartiality is crucial for newsreaders when it comes to informing the public.
ITV presenter Alastair Stewart said: ‘It becomes increasingly difficult for the public to get their heads around what is happening in our politics if supposedly independent TV reporters keep giving us their views rather than the facts. In the ‘papers, it is fine; from broadcasters, it is wrong.’
BBC political presenter Andrew Marr added: ‘I agree with Alastair. Analysis fine, hard questions essential, but our views? Not wanted on voyage.’