A spokesperson for Ofcom told CNN Business on Wednesday that it was “the most complained about” program.
Justifying what it described as a “finely-balanced” decision, Ofcom said the comments were potentially “harmful and offensive to viewers” but it took into account freedom of expression and the “strong challenge” of Morgan’s co-host on the show, which prompted him to walk off set.
Following the backlash from members of the public and Mind, Morgan stepped down from his role on March 9, with a statement from ITV saying he had “decided now is the time to leave Good Morning Britain.”
More than 50,000 complaints were received, Ofcom said, the majority of which said that comments about mental health and suicide made by Morgan were “both harmful to the audience and highly offensive” as were discussions on issues relating to race and racism.
The regulator said: “We were particularly concerned about Mr Morgan’s approach to such an important and serious issue and his apparent disregard for the seriousness of anyone expressing suicidal thoughts.”
“But we also took full account of freedom of expression. Under our rules, broadcasters can include controversial opinions as part of legitimate debate in the public interest, and the strong challenge to Mr Morgan from other contributors provided important context for viewers,” it said.
“Nonetheless, we’ve reminded ITV to take greater care around content discussing mental health and suicide in future. ITV might consider the use of timely warnings or signposting of support services to ensure viewers are properly protected,” Ofcom warned.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Morgan called Ofcom’s ruling a “vindication of me” a “resounding victory for freedom of speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios who think we should all be compelled to believe every fork-tongued word they say.”
CNN has contacted ITV for comment.
— Max Foster and Niamh Kennedy contributed reporting.