In the United Kingdom, the BBC’s sacking of popular sports presenter and former footballer Gary Lineker has sparked outrage and controversy over independence. Several colleagues refused to moderate BBC programming over the weekend – in solidarity with Lineker, who was suspended by public broadcaster after harsh criticism of the British government’s asylum policy. BBC chief Tim Davey has rejected calls for his resignation, and even Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed hope that the issue will be resolved quickly.
And the public broadcaster said on Friday evening that Lineker would not be used as a presenter for the popular football program “Match of the Day” for violating the neutrality guidelines until an agreement was reached with him “regarding his use of social networks.” give.
On Tuesday, the 62-year-old criticized a new asylum law introduced on the same day as a “harsh policy against the weakest” and complained that the law uses vocabulary “not unlike the language used in Germany in the 1930s”.
According to the Daily Express, 36 Conservative MPs then wrote to BBC Chairman Davey asking for an apology from the chairperson. By its decision to suspend Linker’s service, the BBC is giving the impression that it is “submitting to government pressure” and thus endangering its credibility, as former BBC director-general Greg Dyke criticized.
Lineker’s fellow facilitators refused to serve in lines as a sign of solidarity on Saturday. Among other things, Lineker’s “Match Of The Day” was only broadcast in a short 20-minute version and for the first time without game moderation or analysis. Former internationals Ian Wright and Alan Shearer declined to appear as analysts on the show.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt told Sky News on Sunday that while he disagreed “fundamentally” with Lineker’s comments, it was up to the BBC and its director-general, Davey, to decide how to deal with it. The BBC is a “great national institution” that “we all greatly appreciate” because it is “respected for its impartiality”. People’s confidence in this neutrality needs to be restored, Hunt said.
Lineker, who scored 48 goals for England while playing for England, has not publicly responded to his comment. He works for the BBC as a freelance sports presenter – and is therefore not subject to the strict impartiality rules that apply to political journalists and news editors there. With an annual salary of £1.35m, Lineker was the BBC’s highest-paid broadcaster in 2022.
When asked if he would resign due to public outrage, BBC Director-General Davey said in an interview with his broadcaster: “Absolutely not.” He wanted to clarify the problem “peacefully”. His goal is to “get my stream back on the air”.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also spoke. Sunak said he hoped “the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved expeditiously”.
A draft toughening of British asylum law introduced on Tuesday would ban anyone who entered the country without a visa or other permit from applying for asylum in Great Britain. Those affected should therefore be repatriated – as long as it is safe – or “to a safe third country like Rwanda”. At the same time, they must be banned from returning to Great Britain at all times. The United Nations has criticized that the project amounts to a “ban on asylum”.
According to a survey conducted by the polling institute YouGov and published last Monday, 50 percent of those questioned supported the government’s asylum procedure, while 36 percent opposed it. An opinion poll published on Saturday showed that 53% of respondents opposed Lineker’s ouster, while 27% supported it.
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