Good Morning Britain has been warned by broadcasting regulator Ofcom after presenter Piers Morgan offensively mimicked the Chinese language.
Ofcom investigated the incident which happened during the January 21 episode of the ITV show. More than 1,600 complaints were made.
ITV acknowledged the offence caused, "particularly to viewers of Chinese heritage", and confirmed to Ofcom that these complaints were discussed with Morgan by senior editorial staff on the programme.
In the episode, Morgan and Susanna Reid discussed the Queen's grandson Peter Phillips speaking Chinese in a milk advert in China. On three occasions, Morgan stereotyped and imitated the foreign language including using the racist phrase "ching chang", complete with an offensive accent.
Ofcom said in its full assessment that it was not pursuing the complaints any further but warned that the show's "combative dynamic between presenters" came with compliance risks.
During the investigation, ITV told Ofcom that it accepted "the clumsy and spontaneous mimicry of a Chinese accent and the use of the words 'ching chang', which have been used in other contexts historically in a perjorative way about Chinese people, had potential to cause offense, particularly to viewers of Chinese heritage, and in this case did cause offence to the complainants".
"ITV sincerely regrets and apologises for any offence caused to these complainants," the broadcaster said, adding that the show would be "mindful of these complaints" going forwards to avoid a similar incident in future.
ITV argued that while Morgan's comments caused offence, there was "clear context" as the presenter had intended to criticise Phillips. It also said that Reid interrupted and challenged Morgan a few times.
During the segment, Reid called out Morgan saying that "taking the mickey out of foreign languages is rather 1970" and stressed that he "can't" mimic the Chinese language. Charlotte Hawkins also agreed with Reid.
"In our view this gave some challenge to Piers Morgan's mimicry of the Chinese language and provided some mitigation to the potential offence," Ofcom said.
"We also took into account that the focus of Piers Morgan's ridicule was Peter Phillips' appearance in the advert, not Chinese people nor the Chinese language that he attempted to mimic."
Concluding its report, Ofcom stated: "Having carefully considered the context within which the comments were broadcast and the action taken by ITV, including discussing these complaints with Piers Morgan and making a public apology, Ofcom concluded overall that this programme did not warrant further investigation under Rule 2.3 of the Code.
"We remind ITV that there are compliance risks in relying on a 'combative dynamic' between presenters as a way to provide challenge and context for the broadcast of content which may cause offence. This approach can provide significant context, as in this case. However, depending on the particular circumstances, this may not always provide sufficient context to comply with the Code."
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