Gary Lineker to go back on air as BBC announces review

The BBC sports team

Suspended BBC star sports presenter Gary Lineker is to go back on air after the pubcaster announced it would conduct an independent review of its controversial social media guidelines.

Lineker’s suspension over a Tweet critical of the language used by the government to describe asylum seekers had plunged the broadcaster into a self-inflicted crisis, with fellow presenters refusing to go on air in support and the BBC’s sports coverage being curtailed dramatically.

BBC director-general Tim Davie issued a statement apologising for the way events have unfurled, acknowledged “potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020” and expressed a desire to get “matters resolved and our sport content back on air”.

““Impartiality is important to the BBC. It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression. That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles. The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate,” said Davie.

“Accordingly, we are announcing a review led by an independent expert – reporting to the BBC – on its existing social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs. The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favour of such a review.

“Shortly, the BBC will announce who will conduct that review. Whilst this work is undertaken, the BBC’s current social media guidance remains in place.

“Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend.”

Lineker, who declined to back down over his tweets critical of the government, issued a statement to the effect that he would be returning to presenting duties.

“I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air,” he said.

The suspension of Lineker over an alleged breach of impartiality rules in the face of a wave of criticism and demands from right-wing newspapers that he be sacked had opened the BBC up to accusations of double standards, with right-wing commentators such as Andrew Neil and Michael Portillo not being held to the same standards.

The BBC chairman, Richard Sharp, is also at the centre of a controversy over donations to the ruling Conservative Party and helping facilitate a loan facility to former prime minister Boris Johnson only weeks before Johnson recommended him for the BBC job.

Tags: BBC, Gary Lineker, UK

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