The BBC, the UK’s 100-year-old and highly respected public television and radio service, is embroiled in scandal after its controversial decision on Friday: suspend Gary Lineker for a tweet which the former England football star posted on his personal account criticizing the British government.
“Riot for Lineker” AND “Riot at the BBC” These are some of the trends that have taken root on social networks following the announcement of the temporary suspension of Lineker, presenter of the very popular program “Match Of The Day”amid an uproar that eclipsed even Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to Paris in the media.
The former England striker, who has hosted the program since 1999, was suspended by the British audiovisual giant after criticizing the Conservative government’s new bill on Tuesday which seeks to prevent emigrants arriving across the Channel from seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, a project also denounced to the United Nations.
It’s a “cruel policy towards the most vulnerable, in terms not very different from those used by Germany in the 1930s”the 62-year-old former soccer player took to Twitter, where he regularly shares his progressive views with his 8.8 million followers.
This goes against the recommendations provided by the British chain, which prohibits its journalists from expressing political opinions on social networks and obliges them to maintain impartiality. An impartiality that the BBC itself has been proud of since its inception.
Former Barcelona footballer Lineker is a leading pundit on English football and the BBC’s highest paid star with a salary exceeding one million euros per year. In the past, Lineker himself has already had problems for his political views on Twitter, which have not moved further due to his “freelance” status and because his work is centered on sports.
His words sparked a lively controversy in a very tense context on immigration issues, but also recurring criticisms of the British right’s impartiality towards the BBC.
His views on the UK’s immigration plan have led the BBC to say his recent activity breaches the company’s social media guidelines, adding that he “should not take sides on partisan issues or political controversies”.
Suella Braverman, Minister of the Interior, considered the ex-footballer’s statements “irresponsible”, also censored on Thursday by Culture Minister, Lucy Frazer, who underlined that the BBC must be impartial to “maintain the public’s confidence” that the grants.
Solidarity with Lineker
The BBC had earlier said it would speak to the presenter. On Friday, the audiovisual group finally decided “that (Gary Lineker) would stop presenting Match Of The Day until we had a clear agreement with him on his use of social media“.
The reactions were quick: six commentators announced their retirements from the showand other participants in the broadcast later joined, such as former England international soccer players Ian Wright and Alan Shearer.
“Everyone knows what Match Of The Day means to me but I have warned the BBC that I will not be on the air tomorrow,” Ian Wright said on Friday. “Solidarity,” he added.
Lineker – who scored 48 goals for England until his retirement in 1994 – has not reacted publicly to his suspension, but reiterated this week that he stands by his words fully.
Nicknamed “Mister Nice” for his irreproachable behavior throughout his career (never receiving a yellow or red card), he has a habit of expressing his political positions on social media, particularly against Brexit and in defense of immigrants.
An online petition for support surpassed 135,000 signatures on Saturday morning and the #BoycottBBC hashtag is trending on Twitter.
Solidarity with Lineker didn’t end with his “Match of the Day” peers. Saturday, several BBC football presenters withdrew from their programs in support of Lineker.
Alex Scott, a former England and Arsenal player, will not present Football Focus, as will Jason Mohammad, head of Final Score. Both are TV shows.
Colin Murray, host of the Fighting Talk radio show, said it would not be airing on Saturday “for obvious reasons”, saying it was “a decision made by me and the entire FT team”.
Greg Dyke, former director general of the BBC and former president of the English football association regarded as a “mistake” the station’s decision to suspend Lineker.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Dyke complained that the perception could be that the public channel “has bowed to pressure from the executive”.
Instead, he believes that the guidelines of impartiality that apply to journalists cannot be extended to all presenters of the institution, and cites as examples the entrepreneur Alan Sugar, presenter of “The apprentice”, or the naturalist David Attenborough, who often express points of view.
Director of the BBC between 2000 and 2004, Dyke warned that the station, currently run by Tim Davie, could undermine “its credibility” by removing Lineker.
Jason Root is the go-to source for sports coverage at News Rebeat. With a passion for athletics and an in-depth knowledge of the latest sports trends, Jason provides comprehensive and engaging analysis of the world of sports.