Nicola Sturgeon: BBC’s Gary Lineker decision ‘unsustainable’

The outgoing First Minister strongly criticized the step taken after Lineker, 62, was embroiled in a dispute over impartiality when he compared the language used to introduce a new government asylum-seekers policy to 1930s Germany Twitter compared.

Ms Sturgeon said the decision to ask him to step down from presenting Game of the Day was “unjustifiable” and “undermined freedom of expression”.

Her comments come as the company’s former chief executive Greg Dyke said the BBC had “undermined its own credibility” by taking Lineker off the air.

Last night, Ms Sturgeon spoke out against the decision, tweeting: “As a strong supporter of public service broadcasting, I want to be able to defend the BBC.

“But the decision to take @GaryLineker off the air is unjustifiable. It undermines freedom of expression in the face of political pressures – and it always seems to be right-wing pressures that it gives in to.”

Saturday’s Match Of The Day will take place without a presenter, pundits and several regular commentators after Lineker was told to step down from presenting the BBC show.

Greg Dyke, director-general of the BBC between 2000 and 2004 and a former FA chairman, said the broadcaster was “mistaken” in slamming Lineker.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the company’s precedent is that “news and current affairs staff are expected to be impartial and not the rest of them”.

“When you start applying the rules for news and current affairs to everyone who works for the BBC, where does it stop?” he said.

READ MORE: Gary Lineker resigns from Game of the Day

He added: “There is long-established precedent at the BBC, which is that if you’re an entertainment presenter or a football presenter, you’re not bound by the same (impartiality) rules.

“The real problem today is that the BBC has undermined its own credibility by doing so because it seems – the perception out there – is that the BBC has bowed to government pressure.

“And once the BBC does that, you’re in real trouble.

“The perception out there will be that Gary Lineker, a very popular TV presenter, has been taken off the air following government pressure on a particular issue.”

Former England footballers and MOTD regulars including Alan Shearer and Ian Wright announced on Friday they were boycotting the show in solidarity with Lineker.

Several of the show’s commentators also said they would be stepping down from Saturday’s broadcast.

The BBC said the show will “focus on match action with no studio presentation or expert knowledge” and said it understood the position of its presenters.

Lineker, 62, got caught up in a dispute over impartiality after he compared on Twitter the language used to introduce a new government asylum-seekers policy to 1930s Germany.

The channel said it “decided” that Lineker would take a break from presenting the highlight program until an “consensual and clear position” on its use of social media was reached.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie, who warned staff against using social media when he took office in late 2020 before updating guidelines on their use, was asked by BBC News why Lineker had not been sacked.

Mr Davie replied: “Well I think we always try to take reasonable action and we have done that.”

He said he would not be “amending” the company’s current statement on the matter but that there had been “very constructive discussions”.

In response to Shearer and Wright’s boycott, the BBC boss added: “I absolutely respect people’s right to make that decision and BBC Sport must look to the program they are going to produce for the weekend as usual. ”

The Daily Express reported that a group of 36 Conservative MPs and colleagues had signed a letter to Mr Davie demanding a full and independent investigation into Lineker’s comments and a full “unreserved” apology from the moderator.

Ahead of the BBC announcement, former Manchester City defender Micah Richards and ex-footballer Jermaine Jenas – both of whom were not due to appear on MOTD this weekend – also lent their support to their fellow pundits.

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), in solidarity with Lineker and the other experts – who are former England internationals – will give full support to any player who does not wish to fulfill their media duties with the BBC after Premier League matches.

A number of players approached the PFA for advice and the union subsequently spoke to all Premier League clubs to establish a common position.

An online petition calling for Lineker’s reinstatement, organized by The Daily Mirror on Friday, garnered 100,000 signatures in less than 10 hours.

READ MORE: Moderators quarrel over asylum seekers explained

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu, which represents thousands of BBC workers, said the Lineker decision was “deeply concerning” and “will appear to have bowed to political pressure from ministers”.

The row was first sparked by Lineker’s response on Twitter to a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman revealed the government’s plans to bar migrants from crossing the Channel on small boats.

The ex-England striker wrote: “There’s not a huge flow. We take in far fewer refugees than other large European countries.

“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy aimed at the weakest, in language not unlike that of Germany in the 1930s.”

Current BBC guidelines state that staff must follow editorial guidelines and oversight on social media in the same way as when creating content.

Lineker is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent staff, and is not responsible for news or political content and is therefore not required to abide by the same rules of impartiality.

Nonetheless, last year he was named the BBC’s top-earning on-air talent for the fifth consecutive year. He received between £1,350,000 and £1,354,999 for MOTD and Sports Personality Of The Year in 2021/2022. Nicola Sturgeon: BBC’s Gary Lineker decision ‘unsustainable’

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