Gary Lineker in the Match Of The Day st
The BBC has issued a response to complaints made about its news coverage of the recent Gary Lineker saga.
Earlier this month, the Match Of The Day host was briefly suspended by the BBC over a tweet in which he compared the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.
The incident dominated the headlines for days afterwards, with a number of Lineker’s BBC Sport colleagues also declining to go on air during his suspension as a show of solidarity.
In a complaint report published on Friday, the corporation revealed that many viewers had been in touch to say that BBC News should have “focused more on the Illegal Migration Bill and criticism it has received”, rather than Lineker’s views on it.
Gary Lineker presenting coverage of the FA Cup semi-final last year
“The row over Gary Lineker’s social media use, with regards to the BBC Editorial Guidelines, generated high media interest, as well as reaction from politicians from across the political spectrum and sporting personalities,” their statement read.
“This also caused disruption to the BBC Sport scheduling over the weekend of Mr Lineker’s suspension. This was a story of significance and we legitimately reported on the impact for the BBC and Mr Lineker.
“However, we continued to report on many other stories of national and international importance, including the cost-of-living crisis and the collapse of US Silicon Valley Bank.”
In the statement, the BBC also insisted its coverage of the story was “proportionate, fair and duly impartial”.
Many viewers also complained about that week’s edition of Laura Kuenssberg’s Sunday morning politics show, which they felt displayed “bias against Gary Lineker”.
“Throughout the programme we looked at the issues highlighted by the row over Gary Lineker’s social media use and the BBC Editorial Guidelines in detail, hearing a range of nuanced views, some of which were supportive of Gary Lineker,” a second statement from the corporation said.
Laura Kuenssberg in 2018
Shortly after his suspension was announced, it was revealed that Lineker had been reinstated as host of Match Of The Day.
Director-general Tim Davie said he recognised that “grey areas” in the broadcaster’s social media guidance could cause “confusion” and announced an independent review of the guidelines, particularly for freelancers, which is what Lineker is classed as.
Lineker later said in a statement: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”
In a follow-up thread on Twitter, he noted that “however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away”.
“It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you,” he said. “We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people.”