Posted By

Tags

The Lineker row throws BBC into crisis

Gary Lineker at the King Power Stadium in Leicester (AFP Photo via RNZ)

Sarah Young in London for Reuters

March 12, 2023

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that a row between the BBC and football presenter Gary Lineker over Lineker’s criticism of government migration policy was a matter for the broadcaster, as the dispute threatened to trigger a crisis at the Corporation.

The BBC was forced to axe much of its sports coverage on Saturday (March 11, 2023) as presenters refused to work in solidarity with Lineker after the BBC sought to defend its impartiality by taking Lineker off air due to his comments on social media.

Lineker, a former England football captain, the BBC’s highest-paid presenter and the anchor of the football highlights programme Match of the Day, was suspended from his role following his criticism of Britain’s migration policy announced earlier in the week.

Sunak issued a statement on Saturday defending the policy, which bars the entry of asylum seekers arriving in small boats across the English Channel and saying he hoped that Lineker and the BBC could resolve their differences in a timely manner.

“It is rightly a matter for them, not the government,” Sunak said, adding it was important to maintain perspective given the seriousness of the migration issue which saw 45,000 people risk their lives crossing the Channel illegally last year.

The Lineker row severely disrupted BBC sports programming on Saturday as multiple presenters walked out, prompting it to issue an apology.

“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon,” the BBC said.

Saturday’s edition of Match of the Day, a show presented by Lineker for more than 20 years, had been scheduled to air at the usual time despite his absence, but would likely be a silent show of highlights given that commentators have refused to work on it.

The BBC Headquarters in London (BBC Photo)

Neutrality under scrutiny

The BBC is committed to being politically impartial but has faced criticism from the Conservative and Labour parties about how neutral it actually is, particularly in the era of social media, used by high-profile presenters to make their personal positions known.

BBC Director General Tim Davie revealed a 10-point impartiality plan in 2021 after a number of disputes, but none snowballed like the current one. He said on Saturday he would not resign over the Lineker affair.

The opposition Labour Party and media commentators accused the BBC of silencing Lineker, bowing to pressure from the Conservative government after Sunak’s spokeswoman called Lineker’s comments “unacceptable” and Interior Minister Suella Braverman said that they were “offensive.”

“The BBC is not acting impartially by caving into Tory MPs who are complaining about Gary Lineker,” Labour Leader Keir Starmer told reporters at a conference in Wales on Saturday.

Lineker declined to comment to the media as he left his London home on Saturday and did not reply to questions from reporters on arrival at the King Power Stadium in Leicester where he went to watch one of his former clubs play.

The New Law

The furore came after Sunak announced the new law earlier in the week.

Lineker, 62, took to Twitter to describe the legislation as a “cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in a language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.

Seeking to resolve the dispute, the BBC said that there needed to be an agreed position on Lineker’s use of social media before he could return to presenting.

But critics of Lineker’s suspension said he is entitled to his personal opinions because he is not a news presenter.

Greg Dyke, who was Director-General of the BBC between 2000 and 2004, told BBC Radio earlier on Saturday that the BBC had made a mistake by taking Lineker off the air because it gives the impression the government can tell the broadcaster what to do.

“The perception out there will be that Gary Lineker, a much-loved television presenter, was taken off air after government pressure on a particular issue,” Dyke said.

That could turn viewers away from the 100-year-old BBC, which is funded by a £ 159-pound annual “licence fee” tax on all television-watching households.

While the broadcaster remained a central presence in British cultural life, it was battling to stay relevant with younger audiences and faced threats to its funding as some Conservative lawmakers want to scrap the licence fee.

Questions about BBC chairman Richard Sharp posed a further challenge for the broadcaster.

Sharp was under pressure for failing to declare his involvement in facilitating a loan for former Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson shortly before he was appointed to the role.

Sharp’s appointment, made on the recommendation of the government, is being reviewed by Britain’s public appointments watchdog.

The above Reuters Report, published by Radio New Zealand has been reproduced with pictures under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this story

Related Stories

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement