March 3, 2024

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Gary Lineker: BBC boss Tim Davie is 'sorry' after a sporting upset in Lineker's class

Gary Lineker: BBC boss Tim Davie is ‘sorry’ after a sporting upset in Lineker’s class

  • Written by Matt Murphy and Sean Seddon
  • BBC News

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Watch Noumiya Iqbal’s full interview: Tim Davie has been asked if he’s lost control of the BBC

The BBC’s director general, Tim Davie, apologized to license fee payers a day after the sports program was disrupted.

The football shows were pulled at the last minute on Saturday after presenters and commentators walked out in support of Match of the Day host Gary Lineker.

Match of the Day has been reduced to a 20-minute version.

Lineker was suspended after criticizing the government’s controversial asylum policy. But Davey denied that the government pressured him to take this step.

The program was also without its famous theme tune and opening credits. The show began with a graphic reading of ‘Premier League Highlights’ just before it was launched into clips from the Bournemouth v Liverpool game – the usual commentary replaced by the crowd’s voice.

Davey admitted it had been a “tough day” for the company but said “we are working hard to resolve the situation”.

In an interview with BBC News, Mr Davey said: “Success for me is bringing Gary back on the air, and together we give audiences world-class sports coverage, I say, I’m sorry we couldn’t deliver today.”

The managing director said he would “absolutely not quit” but admitted that “this has been a difficult time for the BBC”.

He said there was no “pimping” of any political party amid accusations from opposition parties that BBC executives bowed to pressure from Downing Street and ministers over an anti-government tweet.

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How Saturday’s Discord Ended… In 60 Seconds

Davey said Lineker was asked to “step back” after “getting involved in partisan politics”. He added that he was ready to review the integrity rules for freelancers such as Lineker.

Commenting on the illegal immigration bill on Tuesday, Lineker called it “an immeasurably cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable with language not unlike that used by Germany in the 1930s.”

It also led to an unprecedented day of upheaval in the BBC’s sporting operation, with a staff including some of the most iconic faces and voices associated with football’s cancellers.

In a day when football was supposed to be shown from morning to evening on TV and radio, the BBC had to rebroadcast programs or run podcasts on Radio 5 Live to fill gaps in the schedule.

Focus on Football was scheduled to air at noon but was pulled when host Alex Scott tweeted that it “didn’t seem appropriate to move forward with the show today” an hour and a half before the show was scheduled to start.

Final Score was excluded from 16:00 when host Jason Muhammad told the BBC he refused to submit.

Radio 5 Live’s regular morning show Fighting Talk was canceled when the staff interrupted, and presenter Colin Murray said “the whole team took me personally”.

Fans tuning in to Afternoon TV were met with reruns of Bargain Hunt and The Repair Shop. At one point, 5 Live resorted to replaying old pre-recorded material.

Before Match of the Day was broadcast on BBC One at 22:20, the continuity presenter told viewers: “We’re sorry we are unable to show the regular Match of the Day, including commentary tonight, but here is now the best action from today’s Premier League matches.”

There are major questions surrounding Sunday’s planned coverage and whether the BBC can show Day Two’s match with Mark Chapman on television. The host was absent from the Saturday radio broadcast.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called Linker a “talented presenter” in a statement on Saturday night, but added that the dispute was not within the government’s purview.

He said: “As prime minister, I have to do what I think is right, while respecting that not everyone will always agree. That is why I have been unequivocal in my approach to stopping the boats.”

“Gary Lineker was a fantastic footballer and a talented broadcaster. I hope the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in due course, but it’s really up to them, not the government.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that “individual issues are the domain of the BBC”, but Downing Street and several senior ministers have made vocal criticisms in recent days.

Interior Minister Soella Braverman and Culture Minister Lucy Fraser attacked the broadcaster for suggesting a comparison between government language and Nazi Germany.

Braverman said the Nazi comparison Lineker used was “lazy and unhelpful”.

Support for Lineker has been voiced by senior Labor politicians, including leader Sir Keir Starmer. He said the government should focus on reforming the asylum system rather than “whining” about Lineker and accused BBC bosses of caving in to pressure from ministers.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has called on BBC chairman Richard Sharpe to step down, saying the row exposed “failures at the top” of the company.

He added: “We need leadership at the BBC that upholds our proud British values ​​and can stand up to the constantly turbulent politics and bullying tactics of the Tories.”

Earlier on Saturday, Greg Dyke, who served as director general between 2000 and 2004, said the BBC had “undermined its credibility” over its handling of the row.

An ongoing review led by KC into Mr Sharp’s appointment as chairman of the BBC is under way in investigating whether he failed to properly disclose details of his involvement in facilitating an £800,000 loan guarantee for then Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He denied any involvement in arranging a loan for Johnson.

The BBC is also conducting its own internal review of any potential conflicts of interest Sharpe may have in his current role as Head of the BBC.

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Roger Moses, the former head of BBC News and Director of Sport, also called on Sharpe to leave and said the chairman had “damaged the BBC’s credibility”.

However, others were more supportive of the BBC’s work. Richard Eyre, the foundation’s former editorial policy observer, said on Friday the BBC had “no choice” but to take action against Lineker.

He said the BBC’s director-general, Tim Davie, had “clearly tried” to reach an agreement with Lineker but failed, adding: “It is inevitable that now that he has not been effectively sacked but at least temporarily sacked, the BBC will now be subjected to torrents of Criticism that says it works at the behest of the government.

Lineker has hosted Match of the Day since 1999 and is the BBC’s highest-paid star, earning around £1.35m in 2020-21. He works for the BBC as a freelancer.

BBC staff are expected to remain neutral on political matters and must follow strict social media guidelines, but there is significant debate about how they are presented to staff outside of the news.

BBC News has been told that the Match of the Day production team was not told in advance of their decision on Lineker.

Lineker has yet to comment publicly on the latest developments and was seen attending Leicester City’s home match on Saturday.

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