Over 41,000 people have complained to Ofcom about Piers Morgan - here's what that means

TV watchdog Ofcom has launched an investigation into comments made by Piers Morgan about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.

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

TV watchdog Ofcom has launched an investigation into comments made by Piers Morgan about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The organisation received more than 41,000 complaints about his remarks on Monday 8 March during ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB), when he said he “didn’t believe a word” Meghan Markle said during her interview.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We have launched an investigation into Monday’s episode of Good Morning Britain under our harm and offence rules. As of 2pm on Tuesday 9 March, we have received 41,015 complaints about the programme,” they added.

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.”

According to The Telegraph, Markle herself has submitted a formal complaint to ITV following Morgan’s comments, though the paper said a spokesman for the broadcaster “refused to deny” the reports.

Was this why Morgan left?

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)

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 over 41,000 complaints made against Morgan’s comments rank it as the third-most complained about TV moment in Ofcom history.

The second came in 2007, when Jade Goody and Danielle Lloyd’s racially motivated Celebrity Big Brother argument with Indian actor Shilpa Shetty drew 45,000 complaints.

But 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

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, the Edinburgh Evening News