Mon 13 March 2023:
The BBC’s highest-paid presenter, Gary Lineker, was reinstated on Monday after a decision to remove the sports host from the air due to his criticism of the government sparked a near-mutiny at the public broadcaster.
Over the weekend, the corporation was forced to cancel much of its sports coverage after presenters, pundits, and commentators refused to work in solidarity with Lineker, who criticized the government’s immigration policy.
Lineker was forced to “step back” from his duties presenting the flagship Premier League highlights show after accusing the UK government of using Nazi-era rhetoric in announcing its policy to tackle illegal immigration.
The BBC said on Friday that Lineker, England’s fourth highest goalscorer of all-time, had breached guidelines on impartiality and the corporation would seek “an agreed and clear position on his use of social media” before an on-screen return.
Former BBC chief Greg Dyke warned on Saturday that “it looks like – the perception out there – that the BBC has bowed to government pressure,” deepening an ongoing row over impartiality at the broadcaster.
BBC said on Monday it would hold a review over how presenters can use social media, including freelancers outside news and current affairs, such as Lineker, the former England soccer captain who presents the country’s flagship football highlights programme.
Lineker tweeted as the news was released, thanking everyone for their support.
“I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost three decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world,” he said, before going on to return to the topic of immigration.
“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.”
BBC Director General Tim Davie said in a statement on Monday that Lineker was a valued part of the BBC. “I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend,” he said.
Lineker, the BBC’s highest-paid star with an annual salary of £1.35 million ($1.65 million, 1.53 million euros) according to the figures released last year, wrote on Twitter: “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”
The Conservative government intends to outlaw asylum claims by all illegal arrivals and transfer them to other countries, such as Rwanda, in a bid to stop the crossings, which totalled more than 45,000 last year.
A YouGov poll published on Monday showed 50 percent backing the measures, with 36 percent opposed. But another of its polls published Saturday showed that 53 percent opposed Lineker’s removal, compared to 27 percent who backed it.
SOURCE: INDEPENDENT PRESS AND NEWS AGENCIES
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