John Sergeant: BBC acted with incompetence over Naga Munchetty

John Sergeant has criticised the BBC for its handling of complaints against Breakfast host Naga Munchetty, saying the corporation acted with "incompetence".

The BBC's director-general, Lord Hall, recently reversed a decision to partially uphold a complaint against Munchetty for comments she made about US President Donald Trump during an on-air discussion with co-host Dan Walker.

Veteran broadcaster and former BBC political correspondent Sergeant said the issue should have been dealt with quietly by the corporation.

Sergeant, 75, told Radio Times magazine: "This was badly handled by BBC management and I'm not surprised that there have been angry comments from staff at closed meetings.

"The corporation has been accused of institutional racism. There have rightly been criticisms of the way Dan Walker wasn't even involved in the original ruling, even though he was clearly egging on Naga to give her personal views.

"It looked to me like the return of our old friend: incompetence."

He said it is a "sign of the times", and that there is "increasing pressure" for presenters to become broadcasting personalities thanks to the rise of social media.

"Presenters, and especially BBC presenters, should not interview each other, and they should be careful about banter," he said.

Former Strictly Come Dancing star Sergeant added: "These matters should also be dealt with by the editors on the spot.

"Complaints can be answered without slapping down the presenters in public, or trying to establish overly strict ground rules from on high.

"I fully support Naga. She is a very talented journalist and deserves to succeed."

Sergeant said BBC bosses were "ultimately responsible" over the ruling, adding: "If there's any danger of the BBC being found guilty of racism, they have no other option than to state firmly that this is not the case.

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Naga Munchetty attending the Virgin Media BAFTA TV awards, held at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Naga Munchetty and Sophie Rayworth attending the Virgin Media BAFTA TV awards, held at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
Naga Munchetty, Aaron Fellowes, Louis Theroux and Sophie Rayworth in the press room during the Virgin Media BAFTA TV awards, held at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty
BBC Breakfast presenter Charlie Stayt (centre), Louis Minchin (left) and Naga Munchetty (right)
Naga Munchetty at The TRIC Awards (Television and Radio Industries Club Awards) at Grosvenor House, Park Lane (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Naga Munchetty attending the TRIC Awards 2019 50th Birthday Celebration held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.
RETRANSMITTED CORRECTING DATE Naga Munchetty (left) and an unidentified woman arriving at Chiltern Firehouse in London to celebrate Kylie Minogue's 50th birthday.
Naga Munchetty attending the BAFTA Craft Awards at the Brewery in London.
Naga Munchetty attending the TRIC Awards 50th Birthday held at The Grosvenor House Hotel, London. Picture Credit Should Read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
BBC Breakfast presenters Mike Bushell, Louise Minchin, Dan Walker, Naga Munchetty, Carol Kirkwood and Sally Nugent attending the National Television Awards 2017 held at the O2, London. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment
Naga Munchetty, Ben Thompson, Carol Kirkwood and Charlie Stayt attending the 2017 Television and Radio Industries Club Awards, Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London.
Naga Munchetty attending The Pride of Britain Awards 2016, at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment
Naga Munchetty at the launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2016 at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. Picture date: Tuesday August 30, 2016. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment
Naga Munchetty at the launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2016 at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. Picture date: Tuesday 30th August, 2016. See PA story SHOWBIZ Strictly. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire.
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"But it should never have got that far. A quiet word of advice behind the scenes to the presenters would have made sure this problem did not arise."

A complaint about Munchetty had been partially upheld by the BBC's executive complaints unit (ECU) after she commented on remarks from Mr Trump, who told a group of female Democrats to "go back" to where they came from.

Lord Hall overturned the initial ruling by the ECU following a large public backlash.

Media watchdog Ofcom has since raised "serious concerns" about transparency in the BBC's complaints process after the broadcaster failed to publish the reasoning for its initial decision over Munchetty, and the reversal.

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