Gary Lineker must be impartial as Match of Day host, says ex BBC bossMarch 28, 2023
Lord Birt declared that it is not “legitimate or right” for Gary Lineker to voice his own opinion about immigration policy, while working as part of the BBC.
The ex-BBC boss believes the Match of the Day star, who was suspended for three days, had “breached” impartiality rules.
The matter had caused internal conflict at the time, with high-profile stars like Alex Scott stepping down from her own presenting slot that weekend as a show of solidarity for Gary.
However Lord Birt, who led the channel for eight years back in the 1990s, was adamant of his view when he appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday.
“I have no doubt that the BBC guidelines are clear in respect of the issue at hand and I’m sorry to say that I think he breached them,” he explained.
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Lord Birt continued: “(Match Of The Day) is one of the most important BBC programmes and this is a well established presenter.
“Yes, he was one of England’s great centre-forwards but let’s not kid ourselves.
“His status, his standing and his power arises above all else from presenting this extremely important programme.”
He added in his address to the committee that, although he felt Gary’s actions had been inappropriate, he was sure that the BBC could recover its reputation for impartiality.
“I don’t ever think the damage in respect to the BBC is terminal because it has got too much credit in the bank,” he vowed.
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“I have no doubt whatsoever that at the end of this the BBC’s absolute commitment to impartiality will remain intact.”
His words come after critics including Carol Vorderman hit out at BBC chairman Richard Sharp for helping former PM and Tory leader Boris Johnson to secure a £800,000 loan.
Gary had been under fire after describing the government’s new measures against immigration as “immeasurably cruel”.
He’d argued that the language used about the migrants were similar to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s – and his comments hurt some who accused him of trivialising the deaths of millions in the Holocaust with his comparison.
His axing from that weekend’s Match of the Day caused a social media storm, with Alan Shearer, Jeremy Clarkson, Piers Morgan and Alex Scott among those standing in support of the star.
He has since been reinstated in his usual slot, although he missed one recent appearance due to his health.
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