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Council secures Ofcom ruling in complaint of unfairness against Piers Morgan

Herefordshire Council has welcomed regulator Ofcom’s decision to partly uphold a complaint of unfairness that it made against television presenter Piers Morgan.

This followed an edition of the Good Morning Britain programme which took up the case of ex-SAS soldier who was homeless in the area.

Mr Morgan refused to read out a council statement.

A Herefordshire spokesperson said: “We are pleased that Ofcom have decided to partially uphold our complaint. Not reading out our statement on air meant that viewers of GMTV were not given the opportunity to understand the council’s position.”

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The council said Mr Morgan had “launched a verbal attack” on it by saying: “It’s disgusting….give this guy a council house right now.”

Herefordshire had wanted to make clear that it owns no housing but operates a social housing register and supports applicants to bid for available homes from housing associations. 

It also gives priority to housing former services personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant.

Mr Morgan had presented an item about Bob Curry, a homeless SAS veteran, who had had a petition set up in his name calling on the council to provide him with social housing.

After interviewing Mr Curry, Mr Morgan said: “There’s a statement from the council, I was going to read it, but you know what? I can’t be bothered.

“Here’s the reality Herefordshire Council, you can come up with all the statements you like, this guy is a national hero, they both are, he’s homeless because you have not seen fit to take care of him, so rather than issuing stupid little statements to us, why don’t you do your jobs and give this guy a proper council house right now?”

Ofcom said in its decision notice that viewers would have been aware that the council had submitted a response to the claims being made in the programme and that it had been Mr Morgan’s decision alone not to read out the statement.

It said: “We took into account that Mr Curry and the presenters were critical of the council. In particular, when Mr Curry was asked about whether he had been in contact with the council, he said that he had been in a ‘constant battle’ with it and he only referred to the assistance he had received from military organisations.”

Ofcom noted that Mr Morgan had called Herefordshire’s treatment of Mr Curry “disgusting” and said: “In our view, the programme focused on Mr Curry’s version of events and therefore, Mr Morgan’s decision to dismiss the council’s statement outright and not read it, or to reflect in summary what it said in response, meant that at no point in this programme was the council’s view reflected.

“As a consequence, we considered that viewers were not provided with an opportunity to understand the council’s position and that this had the clear potential to materially and adversely affect viewers’ opinions of the council in a way that was unfair.”

But Ofcom rejected Herefordshire's complaint about the following day’s programme.

It said a member of the council’s communications team had been interviewed and that “fairly reflected the council’s position…we did not consider that it was incumbent on the broadcaster, in order to avoid unfairness to the council, to have reflected the council’s previous responses in the programme”.

Mark Smulian

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