Shaken by “the Gary Lineker affair”, the director general of the BBC announces that he will not resign
Gary Lineker on his arrival at Leicester Stadium ahead of the English Championship game against…
The venerable, century-old BBC has weathered many storms. The one that agitates it today makes its general manager sway, but Tim Davie declared on Saturday March 11 that he would not resign. “Everyone wants to resolve the situation calmly”he said, in an interview with the British audiovisual group.
The day was marked on the air for the group by the disruption of sports broadcasts caused by the suspension of star presenter Gary Lineker. The former footballer at the head of the very popular show Match Of The Day − which summarizes the matches of the English championship − has been deprived of antenna since Friday for having accused, in a tweet, the British government of using the rhetoric of the Nazi era to fight against illegal immigration.
Several football broadcast consultants, such as former England internationals Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, have decided to withdraw from their programs by “solidarity”.
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Match Of The Day, a real institution in the United Kingdom where the program has been broadcast since 1964, was broadcast for the first time on Saturday without a presenter, consultant or even commentary, as part of a shortened program of twenty minutes on the highlights of six English Premier League matches. The Weekend Preview Show SoccerFocus and issuing results Final Score were taken off the grid and Radio 5 Live’s coverage disrupted.
He wants Gary Lineker back on the air
Asked about his possible resignation, Mr. Davie replied: ” Absolutely not “asserting “looking forward to us resolving this situation”. “To be clear, the success for me would be for Gary to return to the air and together we provide the public with international sports coverage”he added, claiming to be “sorry we weren’t able to provide it today”.
The words of ex-footballer Gary Lineker, who regularly shares his progressive opinions with his 8.8 million subscribers, sparked a lively controversy in a very tense context around immigration issues but also recurring criticism of impartiality aimed at public broadcasting on the part of the British right.
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The BBC initially claimed that it would “to converse” with the presenter. On Friday, the audiovisual group finally “decided that [Gary Lineker] was going to step back from presenting Match Of The Day until we had a clear agreement with him on his use of social media”. An online petition in support surpassed 190,000 signatures on Saturday morning and the hashtag #BoycottBBC is trending on Twitter.
A Manchester City supporter holds a banner reading ‘Gary Lineker Prime Minister’ ahead of the Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Manchester City at Selhurst Park in south London on March 11, 2023. BEN STANSALL / AFP
On the political side, the decision of the audiovisual group has been denounced by many personalities, from the Labor opposition to the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who described it as“indefensible” the position of the BBC. She puts according to her “endangering freedom of expression in the face of political pressure”.
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According to the newspaper The Daily Express On Saturday, a group of 36 British Conservative MPs reportedly wrote a letter to the group’s chief executive, Tim Davie, asking for an apology ” without reservation “ of the presenter.
“The BBC has undermined its own credibility by appearing to bend to government pressure”, said the former director general of the BBC, Greg Dyke. According to him, the duty of impartiality required of employees working on political news should not apply to presenters of entertainment programs.
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“Mr Nice” assumes his words
The BBC is regularly attacked by Tories who accuse it of reporting on Brexit in a biased way and of being focused on the concerns of urban elites. The group has since made impartiality a ” priority “ and, on the advice of the government, Richard Sharp was appointed in 2021 to the presidency of the BBC. But this appointment is the subject of criticism because this former banker, a donor known to the Conservative party, would have played the matchmaker shortly before his appointment to help the former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to obtain a loan of 800,000 pounds (900,000 euros).
Also read this article from 2016 Ex-England footballer Gary Lineker slammed for standing up for migrants
Gary Lineker, 48 goals in England until his retirement in 1994, did not react publicly to his suspension but repeated this week that he fully assumed his words. Nicknamed “Mr Nice” for his irreproachable behavior throughout his career – he has never received a single yellow card – he is used to expressing his political positions on social networks, in particular pro-migrants , and against Brexit.
The new bill, which according to the government aims to put an end to the illegal arrival of migrants through the Channel, has been criticized by human rights associations and the United Nations Agency, which has accused London of wanting to “put an end to the right of asylum”.
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The World with AFP