March 29, 2023

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BBC grapples with crisis as social media rules fuel rebellion

  • The BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster, agreed on Monday that football star Gary Lineker could return to broadcasting.
  • It pledged to conduct a review of its social media guidelines after a dispute over neutrality.
  • Lineker, the organisation’s highest-paid broadcaster, posted a comment on Twitter last week in response to the UK’s recent immigration policy.

Gary Lineker’s tweets and the BBC’s response caused a public backlash and a weekend of disrupted sports programming as fellow broadcasters walked out in protest.

Holly Adams/Stringer/Getty Images

LONDON (Reuters) – The BBC, the public broadcaster, agreed on Monday that superstar football presenter Gary Lineker could return to broadcasting, and pledged a review of its social media guidance after a dispute over impartiality.

The company said Lineker, the former English footballer turned TV host and the organisation’s highest-paid star, will return to its flagship football program Match of the Day next weekend.

It comes after a weekend in which the BBC’s sports coverage was plunged into chaos after Lineker was forced to “back off” the show after criticizing government policy. The move prompted many of his colleagues to walk out in solidarity.

General Manager Tim Davie said, “Everyone understands that this has been a difficult period for the staff, shareholders, presenters and, most importantly, our fans. I apologize for that.”

Davey said the broadcaster would launch “a review led by an independent expert – who reports to the BBC – on current social media guidelines, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside of news and current affairs”.

He added, “Gary is an important part of the BBC and I know what the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage next weekend.”

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“After a surreal few days, I’m glad we made it this way,” Lineker said via Twitter.

He added “I would like to thank all of you for the amazing support, and in particular my colleagues at BBC Sport, for a wonderful show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their support has been overwhelming.”

“One last thought: however difficult the last few days have been, they simply don’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a faraway land. It is gratifying to see the sympathy for their plight from you,” Lineker said.

Last week, Lineker posted a comment on Twitter in response to the UK’s recent immigration policy, which the BBC has deemed a breach of its impartiality rules.

The comments led to Lineker being suspended, a massive backlash, and a weekend of disrupted sports programming on both TV and radio as fellow broadcasters walked out in protest. The BBC’s response led to strikes among Lineker’s colleagues, including Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Alex Scott, which disrupted sports programming throughout Saturday and Sunday.

The UK government has released a video of Home Secretary Soella Braverman explaining the new illegal immigration bill designed to stop people crossing the English Channel in small boats. Braverman said these people would be immediately repatriated to their home country or a “safe third country” such as Rwanda.

Lineker reposted the video with the caption: “Oh my God, this is far from atrocious.”

The remarks generated a whirlwind of responses across social media, prompting Lineker to post a follow-up tweet describing the bill: “an immeasurably cruel policy targeting the most vulnerable with language not unlike that used by Germany in the 1930s.”

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The BBC suspended Lineker, who works as a freelance broadcaster, on Friday.

“We consider [Lineker’s] Recent activity on social media is a breach of our guidelines,” a statement from the BBC said at the time.

The BBC apologized for the “limited sports programmes” it was able to present in her absence – including a cut-down version of ‘Match of the Day’ without any commentators or panelists – and said it was aware it would be “disappointing” for BBC sports fans. . .

The BBC said: “We’ve never said that Gary should be a free-thinker, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we’ve said he should steer clear of taking sides with a partisan politician.” Political issues or disagreements.