March 25, 2023

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Mutiny at BBC: Lineker row causes escalating crisis in broadcaster

Mutiny at BBC: Lineker row causes escalating crisis in broadcaster

  • The BBC had to cancel much of its sports coverage on Saturday
  • Many bidders refuse to work to support Lineker
  • The controversy over immigration comments sparks a debate about neutrality

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s BBC was forced to cancel much of its sports coverage on Saturday after presenters refused to work in a show of solidarity with Gary Lineker, as a row over freedom of expression threatens to turn into a crisis in the country. national broadcaster.

The former England football captain, the BBC’s highest-paid presenter and presenter of Match of the Day, was suspended by the broadcaster on Friday after he criticized British immigration policy earlier in the week.

Several sports programs did not broadcast as scheduled on Saturday after several presenters withdrew, prompting the BBC to apologize to viewers.

“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon,” the radio said in a statement.

The Lineker row sparked a debate over the BBC’s impartiality, and pitted the government against one of the country’s most popular and popular sports providers.

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Lineker declined to comment to the media upon leaving his home in London on Saturday, and did not answer questions from reporters upon his arrival at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, where he had gone to watch his team’s previous match.

The BBC is committed to political neutrality, but now faces criticism from the opposition Labor Party and media commentators who accuse it of silencing Lineker in response to pressure from the Conservative government.

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“The BBC is not acting with integrity by caving in to Tory MPs who complain about Gary Lineker,” Labor leader Keir Starmer told reporters at a conference in Wales on Saturday.

Germany in the Thirties

The uproar comes after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new law earlier in the week barring entry to asylum seekers arriving in small boats across the Channel.

Lineker, 62, took to Twitter to describe the legislation as “a ruthless policy targeting the most vulnerable with language not unlike that used by Germany in the 1930s.”

Sunak’s spokeswoman called the remarks “unacceptable” while Interior Minister Suela Braverman said Lineker’s reaction to the policy was “offensive”.

Seeking to resolve the dispute, the BBC said there would have to be an agreed position on Lineker’s use of social media before he could return to the show.

But critics of Lineker’s comment say he is entitled to his personal opinions because he does not host a news program.

Greg Dyke, who was the BBC’s director general between 2000 and 2004, told BBC Radio earlier on Saturday that the BBC had made a mistake when it suspended Lineker from broadcasting because it gave the impression the government could tell the broadcaster what to do.

“The prevailing perception would be that Gary Lineker, the much-loved TV presenter, was taken off the air after government pressure over a particular issue,” he said.

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That could alienate viewers from the 100-year-old BBC, which is funded by an annual £159 ($192) “licensing fee” tax on all households that watch television.

While the broadcaster remains a central presence in British cultural life, it is struggling to stay in touch with younger audiences and faces threats to its funding in the future as some Conservative lawmakers want a license fee abolished.

Saturday’s edition of “Match of the Day”, a show Lineker has hosted for more than 20 years, was due to air at the usual time despite his absence. The BBC said it would “focus on the excitement of the matches without presenting a studio or discussion”.

Writing by Sarah Young in London Additional reporting by Hritika Sharma and Adi Nair in Bengaluru, Henry Nicholls in London and Toby Melville in Leicester Editing by Hugh Lawson and Helen Popper

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