- PM Sunak says the queue is a problem for the BBC
- The general manager of the Broadcaster says that he will not resign
- The BBC was forced to ax much of its Saturday sports coverage
- Several presenters support Lineker by refusing to work
- Row over migration comments sparks neutrality debate
LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) – Britain’s BBC faced a growing crisis as a row over football presenter Gary Lineker’s criticism of the government’s migration policy led to a mutiny by presenters, drawing a comment from the prime minister and left the head of the broadcaster defending his position.
The BBC was forced to ax most of its sports coverage on Saturday as presenters refused to work in a show of solidarity with Lineker, after the BBC tried to defend its impartiality by taking him off air because of his comments on social media.
Lineker, a former England football captain, the BBC’s highest-paid presenter and anchor of the flagship football program ‘Match of the Day’, has been suspended from his role after his criticism of immigration policy British.
Critics of Lineker’s suspension say the BBC bowed to government pressure, leading to a furious debate about the impartiality of the national broadcaster.
BBC director-general Tim Davie told the BBC on Saturday that he had no intention of resigning over the matter. “We at the BBC, and myself, are absolutely driven by a passion for impartiality, not left, right or any particular party,” he said.
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Davie said he wanted Lineker back on air and hoped to find a balance that allowed some presenters to express opinions, while at the same time maintaining the BBC’s neutrality.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issued a statement on Saturday to defend the immigration policy, which prevents the entry of asylum seekers arriving in small boats across the English Channel, saying he hoped Lineker and the BBC could resolve their differences in a timely manner.
“It’s just a matter for them, not the government,” Sunak said.
Lineker’s row severely disrupted BBC sports programming on Saturday as several presenters walked away, prompting him to issue an apology.
Saturday’s edition of Match of the Day, hosted by Lineker for more than 20 years, aired at the usual time despite his absence, but was shortened to just 20 minutes and broadcast as a show of highlights without comment.
NEUTRALITY UNDER Scrutiny
The BBC is committed to being politically impartial, but has faced criticism from the Conservative and Labor parties about how neutral it actually is, particularly in the age of social media when high-profile presenters can easily make their views known. personal positions.
The opposition Labor Party and media commentators accused the BBC of silencing Lineker, after Sunak’s spokeswoman called Lineker’s comments “unacceptable” and Home Secretary Suella Braverman said they were “offensive “.
“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.
Lineker refused to comment to the media as he left his London home on Saturday and did not answer reporters’ questions on arrival at Leicester’s King Power Stadium where he went to watch one of his former clubs play .
The furore followed Sunak’s announcement of the new law earlier in the week. Lineker, 62, took to Twitter to describe the legislation as a “cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable people in language not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s”.
Seeking to resolve the dispute, the BBC said 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 say he is entitled to his personal opinions because he is not a news presenter.
Greg Dyke, who was the director-general of the BBC between 2000 and 2004, told BBC radio on Saturday that the BBC had made a mistake.
“The perception will be that Gary Lineker, a much-loved TV presenter, has been taken off the air following government pressure on a particular issue,” Dyke said.
That could drive viewers away from the 100-year-old BBC, which is funded by an annual “licence fee” of 159 pounds ($192) for all households watching television.
While the broadcaster remains a central presence in British cultural life, it is struggling to stay relevant with younger audiences and faces threats to its funding as some Tory lawmakers want to scrap the license fee.
The questions about the chairman of the BBC Richard Sharp pose a further challenge for the broadcaster.
Sharp is under pressure for not disclosing 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 government’s recommendation, was reviewed by the British public appointments watchdog.
Writing by Sarah Young in London; Additional reporting by Hritika Sharma and Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, Henry Nichols in London and Toby Melville in Leicester; Edited by Hugh Lawson, Helen Popper, David Holmes and Paul Simao
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