Breakfast host Naga Munchetty could lose BBC hosting slots after commercial role conflict

Naga Munchetty

Naga Munchetty could be barred from presenting BBC Breakfast segments about Natwest after accepting money from the bank to host a series of promotional videos.

For the second time in less than two months Munchetty has been warned that her external appearances pose a conflict of interest, having previously been reprimanded for appearing in a corporate film for Aston Martin.

The latest occurrence emerged days after Tim Davie, the new director-general, promised to clamp down on moonlighting BBC presenters using their celebrity status to earn more.

Munchetty, who is paid £190,000 a year by the BBC, was paid by Natwest to interview Ed Balls, the former Labour shadow chancellor, and Jo Malone, the perfume tycoon, as part of the bank’s In Conversation With web series. Her fee has not been disclosed, although other BBC presenters market their speaking and event hosting services for tens of thousands of pounds.

Mishal Husain, Huw Edwards and Jon Sopel are among other highly paid broadcasters who have been accused of using their profile to make extra cash. As a result, Mr Davie used his first speech as director-general to promise clearer rules on how external interests should be declared.

Munchetty’s Natwest videos were recorded before Mr Davie took over but BBC management made clear their frustration yesterday. She has been warned that the clips could be perceived as a conflict of interest.

Sources said this would “be kept in mind for future editorial decisions”. Munchetty may be told she cannot present future BBC Breakfast items that touch on Natwest or the wider banking industry.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Since this event, Naga has been reminded of the risk of conflict of interest when undergoing external engagements. We are developing clearer direction in this area as part of our wider work on impartiality and will have more to say on that in due course.”

BBC editorial guidelines allow its journalists to carry out external speaking and chairing engagements as long as they maintain objectivity and impartiality and do not suggest that the corporation endorses third-party entities.

Munchetty received her first conflict of interest warning last month after she was paid to appear in a public relations video for Aston Martin. In the video she discussed how the car maker was “engaging and assisting employees” during the Covid-19 crisis, even though it was cutting 500 jobs.

MPs have called for the BBC to publish a “register of presenters’ interests” to allow public scrutiny of all external speaking engagements.