British public broadcaster BBC ran into a crisis over the weekend trying to steer a mutiny at its sports department. Gary Lineker, the organization’s highest-paid moderator, posted a comment on Twitter on Tuesday in response to the UK’s latest immigration policy. The BBC viewed the tweet as violating its strict impartiality rules.
Gary Lineker’s tweets and the BBC’s response caused a public backlash and a weekend of suspended sports programming as other presenters walked out in protest.
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LONDON – The BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster, is trying to navigate itself out of crisis mode following a mutiny in its sports department over social media use.
Gary Lineker, a former England footballer-turned-TV presenter and the organization’s highest-paid star, posted a comment on Twitter on Tuesday 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 suspended sports programming on TV and radio as other presenters left in protest.
The UK government released a video of Home Secretary Suella Braverman outlining new Illegal Migration Bill, which aims to prevent people from crossing the English Channel in small boats. Those people would be immediately sent back to their home country or a “safe third country” like Rwanda, Braverman said.
Lineker reposted the video with the comment, “Gosh this is beyond awful.”
The remarks prompted a whirlwind of reactions on social media, prompting Lineker to post a follow-up tweet that described the bill as follows: “Incredibly cruel policies aimed at the most vulnerable, in one language , which is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s.”
The BBC suspended Lineker, a freelancer at the broadcaster, on Friday.
“We consider [Lineker’s] recent social media activity as a violation of our policies,” read a BBC statement.
The BBC’s response led to strikes among Lineker’s colleagues, disrupting sports programming on Saturday and Sunday.
The BBC apologized for the “limited sports programming” it was able to offer in her absence – including an abridged version of the flagship highlights show Match of the Day without commentators or panellists – and said it was “disappointing”. for BBC sports fans.
The BBC said: “We never said that Gary should be in a free-of-opinion zone or that he cannot have an opinion on issues that are important to him, but we did say that he should steer clear of taking sides on partisan issues or political controversies.”
BBC News reported on Sunday that talks between the BBC and Gary Lineker are “going in the right direction” and hope the issue will be resolved soon.
According to reports from the British newspaper The Telegraph, Lineker could again host the “Match of the Day” next weekend.