The BBC crisis escalates as gamers and stars rally behind Lineker

LONDON (AP) – The BBC faced an escalating crisis on Saturday over the suspension of former soccer star and program presenter Gary Lineker for criticizing comments criticizing the UK government’s new asylum policy.

As a growing number of players and presenters rallied to Lineker’s support, the UK national broadcaster faced accusations of political bias and suppression of free speech, as well as praise from some Conservative politicians.

Presenters of BBC’s Football Focus lunchtime show said they would not be appearing on the show in solidarity with Lineker, who was suspended from hosting highlights show Match of the Day, via a Twitter post comparing lawmakers’ language about migrants to that used in Nazi Germany.

The BBC pulled “Football Focus” from its schedule on Saturday and replaced it with an episode of the antique show “Bargain Hunt”.

After a number of Lineker’s colleagues announced they would not be appearing on the show without him, the BBC said “Match of the Day” would be broadcast on Saturday without presenters or pundits.

There will also be no post-game player interviews. The Professional Footballers’ Association said some players wanted to boycott the show as a gesture of support and as a result “players involved in tonight’s games will not be asked to attend interviews with ‘Match of The Day'”.

The union said it was a “common sense solution” to avoid players facing sanctions for breaching their broadcasting obligations.

Play-by-play commentators scheduled for work games on Saturday also said they would not.

‘Match of the Day’, broadcast on Saturday nights and showing highlights of Premier League matches played on that day, has been a national institution since the 1960s. Lineker, who has been the presenter since 1999, is the channel’s highest-paid star and one of the most acclaimed players in English football.

Lineker, whose club career has spanned stints at Barcelona, ​​Tottenham, Everton and Leicester, was the top scorer at the 1986 World Cup and finished his international career with 48 goals in 80 games for England.

The controversy began on Tuesday with a tweet from Lineker’s account – which has 8.7million followers – in which the government’s plan to detain and deport migrants arriving by boat was “an immeasurably cruel policy towards the most vulnerable people in a language.” , which is not dissimilar to that described being used by Germany in the 1930s.”

The Conservative government called Lineker’s Nazi comparison offensive and unacceptable, and some lawmakers said he should be fired.

On Friday, the BBC said Lineker, 62, would “step down” from Match of the Day until “we have an agreed and clear position on his use of social media”. Lineker has yet to comment publicly on the matter.

Funded by a license fee paid by all households with a television, the 100-year-old BBC has a duty to be impartial in its reporting and BBC staff are barred from expressing political opinions.

As a freelancer not working in news or current affairs, Lineker is not bound by the same rules and has sometimes pushed the boundaries of what the BBC finds acceptable. Last year, the BBC found that Lineker broke the rules of impartiality by tweeting about alleged Conservative donations from Russia.

The BBC’s neutrality has recently come under scrutiny following revelations that its chairman Richard Sharp – a Conservative Party donor – helped arrange a loan for then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2021, weeks before Sharp, on the recommendation of the Government has been appointed to the BBC post.

Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke said the network had “undermined its own credibility” by appearing to bow to government pressure.

“The perception out there will be that Gary Lineker, a very popular TV presenter, has been taken off the air due to government pressure on a certain issue,” Dyke told BBC radio.


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