London A Kulturkampf over a tweet has plunged the BBC into one of the worst crises in its 100-year history. It started on Tuesday with a BBC sports presenter Gary Lineker’s harsh criticism of the Conservative government’s current refugee policy on Twitter, for which the former world football star was suspended by British television on Friday. The dispute escalated over the weekend about the limits of expression of opinion in the field of public service broadcasting on the one hand and being too close to the government on the other.
The BBC, also known as ‘The Beeb’, has had to shrink its entire English Premier League football coverage to an emergency program because of a mutiny by presenters, celebrities and sports figures. And now both BBC boss Tim Davie and Richard Sharp, chairman of the station, have to fear for their jobs. Davie had sidelined Lineker himself.
Out of solidarity with Lineker, other sports presenters then refused to go on the air. Active coaches and players also showed solidarity with Lineker. As a result, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has weighed in on the crisis, urging the broadcaster to resolve the conflict quickly. “I hope that the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in a timely manner,” the Prime Minister said.
The 62-year-old Lineker is a footballing icon in Britain with 238 goals in more than 460 games. Since the late 1990s he has been presenting the most popular BBC sports program “Match of the Day” and with a fee of the equivalent of 1.5 million euros is the broadcaster’s highest-paid presenter.
Lineker is also open to opinions and had compared Interior Secretary Suella Braverman’s justification for the draconian measures she announced against illegal immigrants with the xenophobia of the Nazis. “This is simply an immeasurably cruel policy, directed against the weakest, in language not unlike that of Germany in the 1930s,” Lineker wrote.
Braverman presented a bill last week that would oblige the government in London to detain almost all refugees who enter the UK illegally via the English Channel for up to 28 days without a hearing and to transfer them to a safe third country “as soon as reasonably possible”. deport Rwanda. The United Nations refugee organization UNHCR has criticized the measures and doubted that they are compatible with international law.
Lineker’s objection nevertheless triggered a storm of protest in the conservative camp. The comparison to Nazi slogans in particular has led Tory politicians and conservative newspapers such as the Daily Mail and The Telegraph to call for the sports star, who works as a freelancer for the BBC, to be fired. On the other hand, Lineker’s suspension was heavily criticized on social media as an interference with the right to freedom of expression.
“The BBC’s cowardly decision to withdraw Gary Lineker is an attack on freedom of expression in the face of political pressure from Tory politicians,” said opposition Labor Party deputy leader Angela Rayner. But former BBC director Greg Dyke is also critical of the broadcaster’s reaction: “There is the impression that the BBC has bowed to pressure from the government. And when the BBC does that, you have a real problem.”
BBC chairman comes under pressure for political affiliation
BBC boss Davie justified the dismissal of his star presenter as violating the BBC’s policy, which requires the station’s employees to be “impartial”. However, Lineker is not permanently employed by the BBC and does not work there as a political journalist. He expressed his criticism of refugee policy as a private person.
Davie, himself a former local Tory leader in London, acknowledged the BBC’s guidelines were not clear on Lineker’s case and said he wanted to make sure the popular sports presenter was able to get back on the air. However, he refused to resign.
The BBC boss isn’t the only one under pressure, however. Critics have been calling for Richard Sharp’s resignation for weeks. Before taking office, the BBC chairman not only donated £400,000 to the Conservative Party, but also helped former Prime Minister Boris Johnson get a £800,000 loan. Johnson later proposed Sharp as BBC chairman. The events are now being investigated internally and by an appeals committee.
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