London: Amid mounting pressure from leading media personalities in the UK, the BBC reversed a ruling which had partially upheld a complaint against its flagship news show presenter, Naga Munchetty, after she criticised comments made by US President Donald Trump as racist on air.
Indian-origin Munchetty, who regularly fronts the 'BBC Breakfast' news show on UK television had attracted widespread support from different sections of the media as well as an online petition which called on the BBC to review its decision that concluded she had broken strict impartiality guidelines.
"In this instance, I don't think Naga's words were sufficient to merit a partial uphold of the complaint around the comments she made. There was never any sanction against Naga and I hope this step makes that absolutely clear," said BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall after a personal review of the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) verdict from last week.
In an email to BBC staff on Monday, he said: "Many of you asked that I personally review the decision of the ECU. I have done so. I have looked carefully at all the arguments that have been made and assessed all of the materials.
"I have also examined the complaint itself. It was only ever in a limited way that there was found to be a breach of our guidelines. These are often finely balanced and difficult judgements."
Hall went on to praise Munchetty as an "exceptional" journalist and said that he has asked editorial and leadership teams "to discuss how we manage live exchanges on air around these topics in the future".
Munchetty was embroiled in a row following a conversation with her co-host on air in July after Trump tweeted that certain female members of the Democrat Party should "go back to their own countries".
The 44-year-old broadcaster 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 am not accusing anyone of anything here, but you know what certain phrases mean." The BBC's original ruling which said her comments "went beyond what the guidelines allow for" sparked a petition to overturn the ruling, which hit over 35,000 signatures.
The original complaint came from a member of the public, who had alleged political bias from both presenters. The BBC had originally attempted to defend the ECU's decision but was forced into a U-turn amid growing criticism.