Article: Reputation management: The BBC Naga Munchetty row

'Strictly' (speaking) - It Takes Two! So why has Dan Walker escaped scrutiny?

"The BBC is gnawing at its own leg"

From reputation management issue to full blown media crisis – one which the BBC has grown increasingly skilled at!

There are a number of remaining issues in this sorry saga, which risk engulfing the BBC in the same sort of drawn out reputational crisis as seen during Savile and ‘Sachsgate’, (aka the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand affair), and from which, sadly, ‘Auntie’ never seems to learn.

Lord Hall, the Director General, has stepped in to overturn a BBC internal decision regarding one presenter, having now decided it was OK after all, for Naga Munchetty to express her experience following those Trump tweets. Note Michael Grade, a former BBC chairman, thinks the original complaint should be upheld on grounds of impartiality. Beyond the race issue, why wasn’t a separate complaint about Dan Walker followed up, meaning that both were ‘talked to’ by senior management about their obligations over editorial guidelines? Walker clearly pushed the point with his questions to his co-host. This appears both to have been overlooked and mismanaged by BBC bosses, where a more even-handed approach would have been credible, given Walker and Munchetty were involved.

We can apply a choice of ‘isms’ here, especially as Dan Walker is a white male. A decision to investigate was decided upon, therefore Walker should have been scrutinised along with Naga Munchetty, and a line drawn under the matter. But there are still wider presentational issues for journalists and news outlets.

Sofa discussions around personal experience, issues and case studies are all a normal part of breakfast TV fare – I saw this first-hand when I produced ITV’s breakfast show for a decade. None of our presenters would have dared discuss the motives of a political leader during ‘chit-chat’. But this episode exemplifies the ‘news as entertainment’ thrust in a growing Americanisation of British broadcasting. UK news programmes will continue to fall foul of editorial impartiality if they pursue those often contrived ‘cuddly sofa chats’ about what they’ve just seen.Previously, GMB’s Piers Morgan has been slapped by Ofcom for refusing to read a statement, and sailed close to the wind recently after criticising child climate activist Greta Thunberg. His co-host Susanna Reid told him his remarks were “unfair”. Are we routinely crossing a dangerous line?

It is equally agonising sometimes, to watch Tom Bradby’s earnest but awkward personal ad-libs after a distressing report on ITV’s News At Ten. The BBC hasn’t helped matters by gnawing at its own leg, reporting the crisis daily and feeding the machine. In my view, news shows pertaining to be impartial should stop emulating their more partisan American counterparts, in a desperate bid to be infotainment, and refrain from directly commenting on news items and the motives behind their subjects. As Charlie Brooker's Newswipe lamented;"What we wanna hear is what's happening, not what other people think about it. It's just news."

#bbcnews #reputationmanagement #naga


Article Author: Dave Mason

Dave is Mentor Media Training's Managing Director. He is a CIPR Accredited Practitioner and regularly trains for the PR industry institute. His extensive career in broadcasting spans 30 years across radio and television. He has coached executives from major public and private sector organisations, as well as the UK Armed Forces/NATO, around the world for the past decade. Dave is respected for his inspiring training, which is supportive and concentrates on fast learning development. A founding presenter and shareholder of Somerset’s Orchard FM, he went on to work extensively in commercial radio around the UK, as well as BBC News, where he was a Correspondent at BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 1 Newsbeat. Dave has been a TV presenter, reporter and producer at ITN, GMTV, (ITV Breakfast), ITV News Westcountry and HTV West. He was one of GMTV’s senior producers for a decade, covering major international, domestic, political and entertainment stories. His roles have included senior news producing and planning, undercover investigations, war reporting and features production. He still broadcasts as a crisis communications pundit on LBC, BBC Radio and is a visiting lecturer at the Universities of Bath Spa, Gloucestershire and the Cardiff School of Journalism. He is the author of 'Handling the Media In Good Times & Bad'.