BBC mutiny escalates as stars rally behind Gary Lineker – DW – 03/11/2023

The BBC was under pressure on Saturday to reinstate its highest-paid presenter Gary Lineker, who was suspended for criticizing the country’s new migration policy.

The decision by Britain’s main public broadcaster sparked a mutiny among many of Lineker’s colleagues who refused to appear on TV and radio sports programmes, forcing the shows to be canceled over the weekend.

The BBC has been accused of political bias and suppressing free speech, while supporters of the move say the broadcaster must protect its policy of impartiality.

How did the BBC-Lineker crisis unfold?

Lineker, a former England national team football captain, was asked on Friday to ‘step back’ from hosting Match of the Day – a show he has hosted for 20 years – after comparing the rhetoric of the government on Channel migrants to Nazi-era Germany.

Lineker was responding to a video in which Home Secretary (Home Secretary) Suella Braverman unveiled plans to stop migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats.

The government proposes to ban migrants from seeking asylum and sending them to “safe” third countries.

“This is simply an immeasurably cruel policy directed against the most vulnerable people in language no different from that used by Germany in the 1930s,” the presenter wrote on Twitter.

The BBC said the 62-year-old’s comments breached its impartiality guidelines.

The decision prompted pundits and former England strikers Ian Wright and Alan Shearer to immediately tweet that they would not be taking part either, followed by commentators on the programme.

The BBC then announced that it would air this week’s edition of the Premier League highlights show on Saturday night without a presenter or pundits.

The show, which has been on UK screens for 60 years, will be cut to just 20 minutes from the usual 60. It opened without any intro or opening credits or theme music, simply launching into match highlights with the sound of the stadium and no commentary. .

The Professional Footballers’ Association said some players also wanted to boycott the show and therefore players would not be asked to conduct post-match interviews.

The crisis escalated on Saturday when several other presenters refused to host three more football shows on radio and television, forcing their cancellation and leaving viewers without a preview or final score of matches played in the football league of high level in England.

BBC neutrality questioned

The row sparked a debate over the BBC’s policy of neutrality and pitted Britain’s right-wing government against one of the country’s most prominent sports presenters.

The BBC has a long history of objective reporting without taking political sides. But the advent of social media has made its impartiality rules difficult to control.

Several journalists have been reprimanded for sharing controversial views after chief executive Tim Davie warned staff about their use of social media when he took office at the end of 2020.

But Lineker is a freelancer, not a permanent staff member, and is not responsible for news or political content. Many wondered if he had to abide by the same strict rules of impartiality.

Gary Lineker hosts Match of the Day and is England’s fourth-highest goalscorer of all timeImage: Frank Tewkesbury/ANL/Shutterstock/IMAGO

The broadcaster “bowed to pressure from the government”

Meanwhile, opposition Labor and media commentators have accused the broadcaster of silencing the former footballer in response to pressure from the Conservative government.

“The BBC is not acting impartially in caving in to Tory MPs complaining about Gary Lineker,” Labor leader Keir Starmer told reporters at a conference in Wales on Saturday.

Scottish First Minister Nicolas Sturgeon said the BBC’s decision was “indefensible”.

“It undermines free speech in the face of political pressure – and it always seems to be right-wing pressure that it caves in to,” she said.

Greg Dyke, who was the BBC’s chief executive between 2000 and 2004, told BBC radio on Saturday the move was a mistake.

‘The real problem today is that the BBC undermined its own credibility by doing this’, as it could give the impression that ‘the BBC gave in to government pressure’.

On Saturday evening, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to be dragged into the row.

“I hope the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in due course, but it is rightly a matter for them, not for the government,” he said.

The 100-year-old BBC is often accused of both left and right bias and some Tory lawmakers want to scrap the 159-pound ($192, €180) annual household levy that funds the lion’s share of his services.

Before and since the 2016 Brexit referendum, supporters of ‘Leave’ and ‘Stay’ have argued that society’s coverage is biased against them.

mm/fb (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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