Ofcom: what is it, how many complaints did Piers Morgan’s Meghan Markle remarks get – and what he said on Twitter

Over 57,000 complaints have been delivered to Ofcom over the Good Morning Britain presenter’s comments on Harry and Meghan's Oprah interview

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 11:12 am

Piers Morgan’s comments about the Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey have led to the highest number of Ofcom complaints in the TV regulator’s history.

The episodes of ITV’s Good Morning Britain on 8 and 9 March sparked 57,121 complaints.

A statement from the regulator said: “We can confirm that this issue has attracted the highest number of complaints since our reporting began.”

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The Ofcom logo outside of its London headquarters (Photo: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

Morgan responded on Twitter, writing: “Only 57,000? I’ve had more people than that come up & congratulate me in the street for what I said. The vast majority of Britons are right behind me.”

The TV watchdog launched an investigation into comments made by Piers Morgan about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey last week, after it received more than 41,000 complaints.

During the Monday 8 March edition of Good Morning Britain (GMB), Morgan said he “didn’t believe a word” Meghan Markle said during her interview, prompting outrage.

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Piers Morgan quits Good Morning Britain following Meghan and Harry interview row
The comments of Morgan - seen here storming out of the GMB studio after a fiery Meghan Markle debate with co-presenter Alex Beresford - have been criticised by mental health charity, Mind (Photo: ITV)

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is Ofcom?

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) was established in 2002 by the Office of Communications Act, and is the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the UK.

Ofcom has authority across the television, radio, telecoms, and postal sectors, and has a statutory duty to represent the interests of citizens and consumers by protecting the public from harmful or offensive material.

The body helps to “make sure people across the UK are satisfied with what they see and hear on TV and radio, and that programmes reflect the audiences they serve.”

For example, Ofcom licenses all UK commercial television and radio services in the UK, which must comply by the terms of their licences or risk having them revoked.

Ofcom also publishes its Broadcasting Code, a series of rules which all broadcast content on television and radio must follow.

"We consider every complaint we receive from viewers and listeners. Often, we investigate further and we sometimes find broadcasters in breach of our rules," it says.

Why has the investigation been launched?

Ofcom is launching an investigation after it received more than 41,000 complaints about Morgan’s remarks on the 8 March edition of Good Morning Britain.

Harry and Meghan made a number of explosive revelations in their interview; Meghan spoke openly about her mental health, telling Winfrey she had had suicidal thoughts and had asked to go somewhere to get help, but was told it would not look good by one of the most senior people in the institution.

Morgan said during Monday’s programme: “I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she says.

“I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report," Morgan added, saying she had sparked an “onslaught” against the royal family.

During Tuesday’s programme, Morgan again addressed his comments about Meghan’s mental health.

He said: “When we talked about this yesterday, I said as an all-encompassing thing I don’t believe what Meghan Markle is saying generally in this interview, and I still have serious concerns about the veracity of a lot of what she said."

His comments were criticised by mental health charity Mind, which said in a tweet it was “disappointed and concerned”, adding: “It’s vital that, when people reach out for support or share their experiences of ill mental health, they are treated with dignity, respect and empathy.”

It later emerged that Meghan also made a formal complaint to Ofcom about the TV host after he dismissed her accounts, raising concerns with the broadcaster about the effect Morgan’s comments may have on the issue of mental health generally and those attempting to deal with their own problems.

Was this why Morgan left?

Many have speculated that the Ofcom investigation is the reasoning behind Morgan’s departure from Good Morning Britain.

But comments made by ITV’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall suggest Morgan’s exit may have been in the works even before news of the Ofcom investigation came to light.

Dame Carolyn said ITV managing director of media and entertainment Kevin Lygo had been in discussion with Morgan in recent days regarding his coverage of the Harry and Meghan interview.

She said Good Morning Britain was a “balanced show”, adding: “ITV has many voices and we try to represent many voices every day. It’s not about one opinion.”

What could be the outcome?

If the Ofcom investigation goes on to find that Morgan or ITV was in breach of its guidelines, it has the power to issue fines as a punitive measure.

The size of that fine will be determined once Ofcom “considers all the circumstances of the case” to determine “the appropriate and proportionate amount of any penalty”.

"The central objective of imposing a penalty is deterrence,” it says, and “the amount of any penalty must be sufficient to ensure that it will act as an effective incentive to compliance, having regard to the seriousness of the infringement.”

What are the most complained about moments?

The complaints about Morgan’s comments far exceed those made about about Celebrity Big Brother in 2018 when ex-Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett alleged she had been assaulted by fellow housemate Ryan Thomas, which prompted 25,327 complaints.

Ofcom received around 24,500 complaints about Diversity’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent last year, which was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

The controversy with Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007 was previously the most complained about issue, attracting 44,500 complaints.

Before Morgan’s comments broke the record, the most complained about broadcast was seen in 2005, when BBC Two aired a recording of Jerry Springer: The Opera which prompted 55,000 people to complain about its provocative themes, including a joke in which Jesus admits he is a "bit gay".

To make a complaint to Ofcom, head to its website