- The BBC, Britain’s public service broadcaster, agreed on Monday that star football presenter Gary Lineker could return to the airwaves.
- It has pledged to conduct a review of its social media guidelines after a dispute over impartiality.
- Lineker, the organization’s highest-paid presenter, posted a comment on Twitter last week in response to the UK’s latest immigration policy.
Gary Lineker’s tweets and the BBC’s response sparked a public backlash and a weekend of disrupted sports programming as other presenters walked out in protest.
Hollie Adams/Stringer/Getty Images
LONDON — The BBC, Britain’s public service broadcaster, agreed on Monday that star football presenter Gary Lineker could return to the air and pledged to conduct a review of its social media guidelines after a dispute over impartiality.
The company said Lineker, a former England football player turned TV host and the organisation’s highest-paid star, will return to its flagship football show ‘Match of the Day’ next weekend.
It follows a weekend in which BBC sports coverage was thrown into chaos after Lineker was forced to ‘back down’ from his presentation after criticizing government policy. This decision prompted many of his colleagues to come out in solidarity.
Managing Director Tim Davie said: “Everyone recognizes that this has been a difficult time for staff, contributors, presenters and, above all, our audience. I am sorry for that.
Davie said the broadcaster would launch “a review led by an independent expert – reporting to the BBC – into its existing social media guidelines, with a particular focus on how they apply to freelancers outside the news and current affairs”.
“Gary is a valuable part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I can’t wait for him to feature our coverage this coming weekend,” he added.
Lineker said via Twitter: “After a surreal few days, I’m so glad we found a way through this.”
“I want to thank you all for your incredible support, especially my colleagues at BBC Sport for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their support has been overwhelming,” he added.
“A final thought: As difficult as the last days are, it just doesn’t compare to having to flee home to flee persecution or war to seek refuge in a distant land. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy for their plight from so many of you,” Lineker said.
Last week, Lineker posted a comment on Twitter in response to the UK’s latest immigration policy, which the BBC said breached its impartiality rules.
The comments led to Lineker’s suspension, a very public backlash and a weekend of disrupted sports programming on television and radio as other presenters walked out in protest. The BBC’s response led to walkouts among Lineker’s colleagues, including Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Alex Scott, which disrupted sports programming on Saturday and Sunday.
The UK government has released a video of Home Secretary Suella Braverman outlining the new Illegal Migration Bill designed to stop people crossing the English Channel in small boats. Those people would be immediately sent back to their country of origin or a “safe third country” like Rwanda, Braverman said.
Lineker reposted the video, with the comment: “My God, this is beyond awful.”
The remarks led to a whirlwind of responses on social media, prompting Lineker to post a follow-up tweet describing the bill as: “An incredibly cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not different from the one used by Germany in the 1930s.
On Friday, the BBC suspended Lineker, who is employed by the broadcaster in a freelance capacity.
“We consider [Lineker’s] recent social media activity as a breach of our guidelines,” a BBC statement read at the time.
The BBC apologized for the “limited sports programming” it was able to provide in their absence – including an abridged version of “Match of the Day” without any commentators or panelists – and said it recognized that this would be “disappointing” for BBC sports fans. .
The BBC said: “We’ve never said Gary should be an opinionless zone, or that he can’t have an opinion on the issues that matter to him, but we’ve said he should refrain from taking sides on political issues or political controversies.”