The BBC was under pressure on Saturday to reinstate its highest-paid presenter, Gary Lineker, who was suspended for criticizing the country’s new immigration policy.
The decision by Britain’s main public broadcaster caused a mutiny among many of Lineker’s colleagues who refused to appear on TV and radio sports programmes, forcing the shows to be canceled this weekend.
The BBC has been accused of political bias and suppression of freedom of expression, while supporters of the move say the broadcaster must protect its policy of impartiality.
How is the BBC-Lineker crisis developing?
Lineker, a former captain of the England national team, was asked on Friday to “return” from the host of the Match of the Day – a show he hosted for 20 years – after comparing the government’s rhetoric on Channel migrants to Nazi-era Germany.
Lineker was responding to a video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled plans to stop migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats.
The government proposes to ban migrants from applying for asylum and sending them to “safe” third countries.
“This is just an infinitely cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable people in a language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s,” the presenter wrote on Twitter.
The BBC said the 62-year-old’s comments were a breach of its impartiality guidelines.
The move prompted pundits and former England strikers Ian Wright and Alan Shearer to immediately tweet that they would not be taking part either, followed by the programme’s commentators.
The BBC later said it would broadcast this week’s edition of the Premier League highlights show on Saturday night without a presenter and pundits.
The show, which has been on British screens for 60 years, will be cut to just 20 minutes instead of the usual 60. It opens without an introduction or opening credits and theme music, simply launched into climactic matches with the noise of the stadium and no comment. .
The Professional Footballers’ Association said some players also wanted to boycott the show, and therefore the players would not be asked to do post-match interviews.
The crisis intensified on Saturday when several other presenters refused to host three other football shows on radio and TV, forcing their cancellation and leaving viewers without previews or final scores of matches played in the top football league. England.
The neutrality of the BBC is questioned
The dispute sparked a debate over the BBC’s neutrality policy and pitted Britain’s right-wing government against one of the country’s most important sports presenters.
The BBC has a long history of reporting objective news without taking political sides. But the advent of social media has made its rules on impartiality difficult for the police.
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 up the role in late 2020.
But Lineker is a freelancer, not a permanent staff member, and is not responsible for news or political content. Many have asked whether we should adhere to the same strict rules on impartiality.
The broadcaster “bows to government pressure”
Meanwhile, the opposition Labor Party and media commentators have accused the broadcaster of the ex-footballer’s silence in response to pressure from the Conservative government.
“The BBC is not acting impartially by giving in to Tory MPs complaining about Gary Lineker,” Labor leader Keir Starmer told reporters at a conference in Wales on Saturday.
First Minister of Scotland Nicolas Sturgeon said the BBC’s decision was “indefensible”.
“It’s undermining freedom of expression in the face of political pressure — and it always seems to be right-wing pressure that’s looming,” he said.
Greg Dyke, who was the director-general of the BBC between 2000 and 2004, told BBC radio on Saturday that the move was a mistake.
“The real problem today is that the BBC has undermined its own credibility by doing this,” as it could create the impression that “the BBC is bowing to government pressure.”
From Saturday evening, Britannica Chief minister Rishi Sunak refused to be drawn into the row.
“I hope the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in a timely manner, but that is a matter for them, not the government,” he said.
The 100-year-old BBC is often accused of bias from both the left and the right and some Tory MPs want discard the annual license fee of 159 pounds ($192, €180). on families financing the lion’s share of their services.
Before and after the 2016 Brexit referendum, supporters of “Leave” and “Remain” claimed that the coverage of the corporation was biased against them.
mm/fb (AFP, AP, Reuters)