Former ITN chief John Hardie to head Gary Lineker BBC social media review

Former ITN chief John Hardie will head the BBC's review into its social media policy in the wake of the Gary Lineker impartiality row, it has been announced.

The corporation said the independent review will start immediately and is likely to be completed by the summer.

It comes after Lineker was temporarily taken off air by the BBC earlier this month after posting a tweet which compared the government's language on immigration to that used in 1930s Germany.

The TV host was reinstated days later following a boycott of a string of sports shows, including the BBC's flagship Match Of The Day programme, by fellow presenters, pundits and commentators in solidarity.

Mr Hardie, who served as broadcaster ITN's former chief executive and editor-in-chief from 2009 to 2018, has been asked to recommend new social media guidelines for BBC staff which are "clear, proportionate and appropriate" - particularly for freelancers like Lineker who do not work in news.

It comes after BBC director-general Tim Davie admitted that there were "grey areas" in the corporation's rules and said "confusion" about its policies needed to be cleared up.

In the wake of the row, Mr Davie defended the decision to suspend Lineker, describing it as a "proportionate action", but also apologised for the disruption caused to schedules.

Supporters of Lineker argued that his attacks on the government's asylum policies had not broken any rules because he works in sport.

But critics, including some Tory MPs, accused him of undermining the BBC's commitment to impartiality.

Mr Davie said in a statement on Friday: "The BBC has important commitments to both impartiality and to freedom of expression. We also have a commitment to those working with us, and for us, to be clear in what we expect from them.

"The social media guidance is crucial to achieving this, particularly in a fast-paced, ever-changing world of digital media.

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"This review will ensure this guidance is clear, proportionate and appropriate - now and in the future."

Mr Hardie said: "I am very pleased to have been asked to conduct this review. I approach the task with no preconceptions and an open mind.

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"I look forward to hearing from a wide range of voices, from both inside and outside the BBC, as the work progresses."

Prior to working for ITN, which provides news coverage for ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, Mr Hardie was the executive vice president at Walt Disney and served as the chair of the Royal Television Society.