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Crisis at the BBC. Gary Lineker suspended. The director of the station apologizes to the viewers, the Prime Minister of Great Britain spoke

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The crisis at the British public broadcaster BBC, which broke out after the suspension of popular sports presenter Gary Lineker, is getting bigger and bigger. The dispute over the entry of a journalist and a former football player in social media turned into a public debate on the independence and role of the state-owned station, operating under the Royal Charter.

Gary Lineker, who hosted the show “Match of the Day” since 1999, was suspended Friday night after the BBC decided that his tweet violated the rules of political impartiality. Lineker wrote that the language used by the government in presenting the illegal immigration bill “is no different from Germany in the 1930s”.

Impartiality and political neutrality have been a cornerstone of the station since its inception in 1922 and is taken very seriously in the UK. Although Lineker is not a full-time BBC journalist, on the occasion of a previous similar controversy with his participation in October last year, the station stressed that he is so strongly associated with it that he also applies guidelines on the use of social media.

In reaction to the suspension of Lineker, all experts and commentators resigned from participating in the Saturday edition of “Match of the Day”. As a result, the program lasting about three hours was shortened to 20 minutes, and due to the lack of hosts who decided to sympathize with Lineker, most sports programs were canceled or shortened.

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Gary Lineker is leaving the BBC

Gary Lineker is leaving the BBCGary Lineker is leaving the BBCGetty Images

BBC director apologizes to viewers

In an interview on Saturday evening, BBC director general Tim Davie apologized to viewers for the inconvenience and said he wanted Lineker back on the air. However, he maintained his opinion that the station was doing the right thing in this situation.

“We are staunch advocates of democratic debate, freedom of speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organization,” he explained. He stated that he himself had no intention of resigning from his position, because such demands had also appeared.

A political dispute over political impartiality

But the dispute, contrary to his intentions, is becoming increasingly political, especially with the opposition Labor Party. Labour, while disagreeing with the government’s migration policy, initially also criticized the comparison to Nazi Germany as inappropriate. Now, however, they stood up for him, pointing out to the BBC’s leadership links with the Conservative Party.

In the background, there is an unexplained matter that burdens the image of the BBC – brokering a loan for the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which was to be arranged in December 2020 by the current chairman of the BBC Council, Richard Sharp. This was several weeks before he was recommended by the government for the position.

The Conservatives, who are now seen as the party controlling the BBC, have accused the public broadcaster in recent years – not without reason – of having too much liberal-left “inclination” on ideological issues.

The Prime Minister speaks

On Saturday evening, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addressed the dispute for the first time.

“I have to do what I think is right, respecting the fact that not everyone will always agree. That’s why I was clear in my approach to stopping boats (with illegal immigrants – ed.). Gary Lineker was a great footballer and is a gifted presenter. I hope that the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in due course, but it is appropriate that this is between them and not a government issue.

Rishi SunakGONZALO FUENTES/PAP/EPA



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