The BBC has found itself apologising a lot recently, which has divided many licence payers – including the most recent case of Andrew Marr and Priti Patel.
In September, BBC journalist Steph McGovern apologised for calling out Boris Johnson’s sexist “girly swot” comment that he made earlier in the year. The presenter, who was speaking at a non BBC event, light-heartedly introduced the Prime Minister by saying: “I’d just like to point out I am a girly swot and I’m proud of it. Let’s see who’s in the job the longest.”
As part of her role at the BBC, McGovern needs to remain politically objective in public. That’s thought to be the reason why she later tweeted an apology, writing: “At a non BBC event I was hosting today, I made a light-hearted remark after the prime minister’s speech. Sorry that this caused offence to some. That was absolutely not my intention.”
Later that month, another female BBC presenter came under fire by the broadcaster she works for. This time, it was because Breakfast host Naga Munchetty called out Donald Trump’s racist comments about his political opponents, who he told to “go back” to the “places from which they came”.
“Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism,” Munchetty said in response to the news on live TV. “Now I’m not accusing anyone of anything here, but you know what certain phrases mean.”
The BBC said Munchetty had breached guidelines because, although she is entitled to her own views, she had gone “beyond what the guidelines allow for”. However, this decision was later reversed, with BBC director general Lord Hall saying Munchetty’s words “sufficient to merit a partial uphold” of the complaint against her.
Both of these cases caused much discussion on social media about whether or not they should have been penalised for calling out blatant racism and sexism.
Now, the BBC has made another apology about a presenter – this time on behalf of Andrew Marr.
During an interview on his weekend show earlier this month, Marr called out home secretary Priti Patel for “laughing” while discussing Brexit. As he read out a list of industry bodies who had expressed concerns about the impact Brexit would have on their businesses, Marr paused to tell Patel: “I can’t see why you’re smiling”.
The clip was shared on social media with many people agreeing with Marr’s comment. However, the BBC also received 222 complaints, suggesting that Patel was just displaying her “natural expression”.
The organisation has now shared an apology statement, which reads: “Guests who appear on the Andrew Marr show expect robust interviewing that includes back and forth between themselves and Mr Marr.
“Andrew Marr commented on Priti Patel laughing after he glanced up while reading a list of business leaders concerned about the impact of Brexit on their industries.
“He thought he saw the home secretary smile but now accepts this was in fact her natural expression and wasn’t indicating amusement at his line of questioning.”
The statement concluded: “There was no intention to cause offence and we are sorry if viewers felt this to be the case.”
It has reignited a conversation around the BBC’s recent apologies and what its presenters should and should not be allowed to say.
Here are just a handful of views:
Regardless of your own personal political views, these three recent cases are certainly enough to make us consider what we expect from a public news organisation like the BBC in 2019.
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