Piers Morgan’s comments that he did not believe Meghan Markle’s mental health claims was most complained-about TV show of 2021, Ofcom reveals
In the ITV broadcast in March, Mr Morgan said he ‘didn’t believe a word’ of what Meghan told Oprah Winfrey in her and her husband Prince Harry’s bombshell interview with the US chat show host.
The following day, he clashed with weather presenter Alex Beresford and then departed the show for good.
Media regulator Ofcom revealed today that the show, which led to Mr Morgan departing the ITV programme for good, received 54,595 complaints.
Harry and Meghan’s interview with Winfrey, which was also broadcast on ITV after first airing in the US, was the fourth most complained-about show of the year, with a total of 6,486 complaints.
In the programme, the Sussexes first accused the royal family of not supporting them, claimed royal aides declined to help Meghan when she was troubled with suicidal thoughts and said a relative had made a racist comment about their son Archie’s skin colour.
Mr Morgan also challenged Meghan’s claims of royal racism and suicidal thoughts.
He was later cleared by Ofcom of breaching broadcasting rules after the Duchess of Sussex was among a wave of people who complained that his questioning of her claims was ‘harmful’ and ‘offensive’ to viewers.
The UK’s broadcasting watchdog later called attempts to silence the MailOnline columnist a ‘chilling restriction on freedom of expression’.
The episode of Good Morning Britain where Piers Morgan said he did not believe Meghan Markle’s claims about her mental health was the most complained about TV show of 2021, Ofcom has revealed
Harry and Meghan’s interview with Winfrey, which was also broadcast on ITV after first airing in the US, was the fourth most complained-about show of the year, with a total of 6,486 complaints
Overall, it was a record year for complaints, with more than 150,000 made to Ofcom. The figure is a 124 per cent rise on last year.
The most complained-about programmes of 2021
1. Piers Morgan’s comments about Meghan’s mental health on Good Morning Britain (54,595)
2. Faye Winter’s expletive-laden outburst towards Teddy Soares on Love Island (24,921)
3. Remarks about famous figures on Celebrities: What Happened To Your Face (7,125)
4. Winfrey’s interview with Harry and Meghan (6,486)
5. The postcard from Casa Amor on Love Island (4,337)
6. A discussion about the number of unvaccinated people in hospital on Lorraine (3,769)
7. Discussion between Morgan and Alex Beresford on Good Morning Britain (3,249)
8. Dr Hilary Jones criticises a fake Covid-19 information pamphlet on Good Morning Britain (2,632)
9. A Good Morning Britain segment titled: ‘Ditching unvaccinated friends?’ (2,104)
10. A This Morning segment called: ‘How to lose the lockdown pounds’ (1,942)
The total figure did not include complaints about the BBC, which are handled by the corporation in the first instance.
ITV’s Love Island was in second place thanks to an August episode, in which contestant Faye Winter delivered a lengthy expletive-laden outburst towards her partner Teddy Soares, prompting 24,921 complaints.
The pair had an explosive argument after the islanders were played a clip of Soares telling another contestant, Clarisse Juliette, who had since been eliminated, that he was attracted to her.
In third place was Celebrities: What Happened To Your Face on Channel 5, which looked at plastic surgery in celebrity culture, with 7,125 complaints made about remarks commenting on the appearance of a number of stars featured in the programme.
Love Island also delivered the fifth most complained-about episode of the year.
The arrival of a postcard from rival villa Casa Amor to the main villa on the ITV show prompted 4,337 complaints to Ofcom.
The postcard showed the male contestants on the show in compromising circumstances with a new group of girls, despite many already being coupled up.
Adam Baxter, Ofcom’s director of standards and audience protection, said: ‘Interestingly, it’s a relatively small number of TV shows driving the lion’s share; the top five most-complained about programmes account for 80% of all complaints.
‘Social media – a digital home for modern-day water-cooler conversations – also has its influence on complaints figures.
‘But for me, these volumes demonstrate the British public’s interest and passion for TV and radio programmes, and shows just how important they are to the cultural fabric of our nation.’
Mr Morgan had said he ‘didn’t believe a word’ of what Meghan told Oprah and also challenged her claims of royal racism and suicidal thoughts
Mr Baxter said the high number of complaints do not necessarily mean rules have been broken.
He said: ‘The judgments we make each day are often finely balanced – such as our highest profile case this year: Piers Morgan’s comments on Good Morning Britain in the wake of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.
‘But, given the importance of the right to freedom of expression, we only step in or take action against a broadcaster when we consider it necessary.’
Ofcom this year concluded 33 investigations and recorded 20 breaches, with many of these about hate speech or coronavirus misinformation.
Within 48 hours of the Oprah interview on March 7 this year, Mr Morgan was forced to quit GMB after he refused to apologise for his ‘honestly held opinions’.
The move cost ITV around 790,000 viewers and millions more in advertising revenue as viewers switched to rival show BBC Breakfast.
Other complainants to Ofcom accused Piers of failing to be ‘duly impartial’, ‘misrepresenting facts’ and ‘mocking’ Meghan’s American accent.
ITV’s Love Island was in second place thanks to an August episode, in which contestant Faye Winter (left) delivered a lengthy expletive-laden outburst towards her partner Teddy Soares, prompting 24,921 complaints
In third place was Celebrities: What Happened To Your Face on Channel 5, which looked at plastic surgery in celebrity culture, with 7,125 complaints made about remarks commenting on the appearance of a number of stars featured in the programme
Love Island also delivered the fifth most complained-about episode of the year. The arrival of a postcard from rival villa Casa Amor to the main villa on the ITV show prompted 4,337 complaints to Ofcom
Complaints that his views on GMB on March 8 and March 9 were unsuitable for children were also thrown out.
Ofcom found no rules were breached and backed Mr Morgan’s right to ‘rigorously challenge’ the Duchess’s account of suffering suicidal thoughts and claims she experienced racism at the hands of the Royal Family.
In complete vindication for the MailOnline columnist, 56, Ofcom ruled: ‘Mr Morgan was entitled to say he disbelieved the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s allegations and to hold and express strong views that rigorously challenged their account’.
And in a damning indictment of his former bosses and the 50,000-plus people who complained, the watchdog found: ‘The restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and the audience.