- Lifestyle & Sports
- 13 Mar 23
Impartiality "is a difficult balancing act to get right" BBC Director Tim Davie says as the football sports presenter Gary Lineker returns to BBC's Match of the Day
BBC Sports Match of the Day talk-host Gary Lineker has returned to the flagship program after making comments criticising the UK's asylum policy and violating BBC's impartiality guidelines.
On Twitter, he compared the UK's new Illegal Migration Bill to that of 1930s Germany. The bill, which has been praised by the far-right across Europe, involves detaining and removing illegal immigrants from entering the UK, particularly those that enter by crossing the English Channel by boat.
Last year, in a similar attempt to deter Channel crossings, Boris Johnson proposed a bill sending any illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers abroad to Rwanda. The plan was condemned by the Refugee Council for being "cruel and nasty."
BBC previously retained that impartiality of their reporters are important and that Lineker's comments violated BBC's impartiality rules. As a result, he was forced by the broadcasting network to step back.
Lineker has never exactly subtle with his political opinions before though, taking to Twitter frequently. Tim Davie, the Director general of the BBC, called his impartiality a "work in progress."
In solidarity, other BBC sport show presenters refused to go on air, forcing the broadcasting service to scramble and rearrange the scheduled programs.
Now, after Lineker is set to return to television, he shared his thanks for the support on Twitter. His first assignment back will be presenting the live coverage of the FA Cup quarterfinal this Saturday.
"Well, it's been an interesting couple of days. Happy that this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating and very much looking forward to presenting @BBCMOTD on Saturday. Thanks again for all your incredible support. It's been overwhelming."
Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days. Happy that this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating and very much looking forward to presenting @BBCMOTD on Saturday. Thanks again for all your incredible support. It’s been overwhelming.
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 9, 2023
Tim Davie, the Director general of the BBC, released a statement in response to the incident, apologising for the "difficult period" the "grey areas" of BCC's social media guidance caused. However, he reiterated that its purpose held merit.
Implementing the impartiality guidelines back in 2020, they are meant to stop staff from posting any views on current political issues of controversy on personal accounts under the belief that it could insinuate bias within the network. Examples of what could be considered controversial reportedly include the Black Lives Matter movement and trans rights.
“Impartiality is important to the BBC. It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression. That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles."
“The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.
To fix things, Davie continued on to announce a review of the policy by an independent party, and how to incorporate non-news focused freelancers who work for the company.
"The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favour of such a review."
A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you. 3/4
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2023
While who will be doing the review has not yet been announced, information is expected to come shortly. In the interim, Davie confirms that the current guidance policy will remain.
Despite the apology, the BBC remains under heavy fire. Davie's previous associations with the Conservative Party have raised questions over double standards in the past, although he has said that he has not bowed to pressure from any political party.
In addition, Richard Sharp, BBC's Chair, is currently being pressured to quit. His previous misstep of arranging loans of £800k for Boris Johnson, something he failed to mention before his appointment to BBC's Chair, also calls into question the validity of BBC's impartiality.
- Lifestyle & Sports
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