More breaks in coverage at the BBC as the Lineker crisis deepens
LONDON (AP) — The BBC’s sports coverage was severely disrupted for a second day on Sunday as dozens of staff refused to stand in solidarity with top footballer Gary Lineker, who was suspended by the broadcaster after he tweeted critical of the UK government’s asylum policy.
Pressure was mounting on the BBC to resolve the crisis, with growing calls for its bosses to resign over allegations of political bias and suppression of free speech.
The BBC has suspended Linekerone of English football’s most acclaimed players and the company’s highest paid presenter, on Friday after tweeting criticism of the UK government’s new migration policy and comparing language used on migrants to those used in Nazi Germany.
He was referring to the Conservative government’s plans to prevent migrants from arriving on UK shores in small boats by introducing tough new laws that would detain, deport and ban asylum seekers from ever re-entering the UK.
Immigration and “taking back” Britain’s borders has been a hot topic in the UK since the 2016 Brexit referendum, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made stopping migrants crossing the English Channel one of his top priorities. But his plans were quickly condemned by the UN refugee agency and many rights groups, calling the policy unethical and unworkable.
Lineker’s suspension has sparked massive backlash and many of the BBC’s sports presenters and reporters quit their jobs on Saturday to support the presenter.
As a result, several daytime football shows were withdrawn at the last minute and ‘Match of the Day’, a popular nighttime program featuring highlights of Premier League matches of the day and regarded as something of a British institution since the 1960s, became aired with no commentary and contained only condensed footage. Saturday’s game of the day usually lasted about an hour and a half and only aired for 20 minutes.
No presenters are expected to accompany coverage of the Women’s Super League and “Match of the Day 2” on Sunday.
Tim Davie, the director general of the BBC, apologized for the disruption.
“It’s been a tough day and I’m sorry the public has been affected and they don’t have the programming,” Davie said on Saturday. “We are working very hard to resolve the situation and make sure we get the output back on the air.”
Lineker, 62, is one of Britain’s most influential media figures, receiving £1.35 million ($1.6 million) from the BBC last year.
With 48 goals in 80 international appearances, he was one of England’s greatest strikers and even before he became the main presenter of ‘Match of the Day’ in 1999, he was a household name in Britain.
The controversy began on Tuesday with a tweet from Lineker’s report describing the government’s plan to detain and deport migrants arriving by boat as “an immeasurably brutal policy targeting the most vulnerable in a language comparable to with that of Germany in the 1930s. ”
The Conservative government called Lineker’s Nazi comparison offensive and unacceptable, and some lawmakers said he should be fired.
It was the latest controversy over the role of the 100-year-old BBC, which is funded by a license fee paid by all households with a television.
The broadcaster’s neutrality came under scrutiny recently following revelations that its chairman, Richard Sharp – a donor to the Conservative Party – helped arrange a loan for then Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2021, weeks before he left on the government’s recommendation. was appointed to the BBC post.
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