Entertainment

Ofcom chief defends Piers Morgan ruling but admits watchdog not diverse enough

Dame Melanie Dawes addressed questions over whether the broadcasting watchdog is too white.

The head of Ofcom defended the decision to clear Good Morning Britain over Piers Morgan’s controversial comments about the Duchess of Sussex as she admitted the broadcasting watchdog is not diverse enough.

Dame Melanie Dawes said the ruling over Morgan’s comments that he did not believe Meghan’s claims about her mental health during her interview with Oprah Winfrey was a “finely balanced decision”.

In a conversation with broadcaster Clive Myrie at the RTS Cambridge Convention, he asked her: “Are you confident Ofcom is diverse enough?

Ofcom Chief Executive announced
Dame Melanie Dawes (Ofcom/PA)

“The media forums that I’m on, which include a lot of black broadcasters and producers and people in the industry, were very upset at the Ofcom ruling concerning Piers Morgan, which was about his comments and views on mental health issues, but that race element is there.

“And their sense is that it’s too white an organisation and would never understand why that ruling was so upsetting to so many people.”

Dame Melanie said: “Is Ofcom diverse enough? No. We have got some really stretching targets and are actually making really good progress.”

She added: “On the decision around Good Morning Britain, this was quite a finely balanced decision and we were really clear that we were pretty critical of Piers Morgan, and some of the things he said had the capacity to be harmful as well as deeply offensive.

“We got a lot of complaints and clearly it was offensive to a lot of viewers.

“But, at the same time, there was a pretty robust challenge from a number of presenters to some of things that he said and that didn’t happen by accident, it happened because ITV designed the programme that way and made sure that that challenge was there.

“In the end, the decision is ‘Was ITV in breach of the broadcasting code?’ No, but we were pretty critical of Piers’ comments.”

Morgan, 56, left Good Morning Britain in March following a row over the comments he made about Meghan’s interview, where she said she was ignored when she raised concerns about her mental health and suicidal thoughts, and alleged that racist comments had been made before the birth of her son, Archie.

Discussing the interview on the ITV show the following day, Morgan said he did not believe her.

His comments sparked more than 50,000 complaints, the most in Ofcom’s history.

In the ruling, the watchdog said the presenter’s remarks were “potentially harmful and highly offensive” but were thoroughly challenged by his co-host, Susanna Reid, and ITV News’s royal editor, Chris Ship, during the programme.

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