Good Morning Britain was not in breach of the UK's broadcasting code over Piers Morgan's controversial comments about Meghan Markle, which sparked more than 50,000 complaints, Ofcom, the British communications regulator, has ruled.
It said Morgan’s comments were “potentially harmful and offensive” but said it also “took full account of freedom of expression”. The presenter said the ruling was a “resounding victory”.
Morgan left Good Morning Britain after saying he did not believe claims Markle made during her interview with Oprah Winfrey. The episode on March 8th, during which Morgan stormed off the set, became the most complained about moment in the watchdog's history, and it emerged that Markle, the duchess of Sussex, had made a formal complaint to ITV about the presenter.
I’m delighted OFCOM has endorsed my right to disbelieve the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’s incendiary claims to Oprah Winfrey, many of which have proven to be untrue. This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 1, 2021
Do I get my job back? pic.twitter.com/czhzeejYpa
A statement from Ofcom says: “This was a finely balanced decision. Mr Morgan’s comments were potentially harmful and offensive to viewers, and we recognise the strong public reaction to them.
“But we also took full account of freedom of expression. Under our rules, broadcasters can include controversial opinions as part of legitimate debate in the public interest, and the strong challenge to Mr Morgan from other contributors provided important context for viewers.
“Nonetheless, we’ve reminded ITV to take greater care around content discussing mental health and suicide in future. ITV might consider the use of timely warnings or signposting of support services to ensure viewers are properly protected.”
Following the ruling Morgan tweeted: “I’m delighted OFCOM has endorsed my right to disbelieve the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’s incendiary claims to Oprah Winfrey, many of which have proven to be untrue. This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios. Do I get my job back?”
Markle, who was 40 last month, says she was ignored when raising concerns about her mental health and alleged that racist comments had been made before the birth of her son, Archie.
After a clip aired of Markle discussing her issues with mental health and suicidal thoughts and royal official’s knowledge of them, Morgan said during the ITV programme: “I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she says. I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report.” His comments were criticised by the British mental-health charity Mind.
A summary of the Ofcom ruling says: “This programme focused on the interview between Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It contained statements about suicide and mental health which had the potential to be harmful and highly offensive. owever, our decision is that overall the programme contained sufficient challenge to provide adequate protection and context to its viewers. We also considered that the comments about race in the programme could have been potentially highly offensive, but that the comments were sufficiently contextualised. Therefore, our decision is that the programme did not breach the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.” – PA