Gary Lineker provokes outrage with TV licence fee joke

Sports comemntator Gary Lineker is still the highest earning presenter at the BBC, with a salary of £1,750,000 – £1,754,999, the same as he earned last year. (Credit: PA)

Gary Lineker was the highest-earning presenter at the BBC in 2020, with a salary of £1.75m. (PA)

Gary Lineker has left some fans fuming after making a joke about the TV licence fee increase.

The BBC announced this week that the licence fee will rise by £1.50 from 1 April this year, and will now cost £159 for an annual colour TV licence instead of £157.50.

Lineker, 60, tweeted the news, qupping: "But, but I’ve just taken a pay cut."

The former footballer turned TV presenter – who has been hosting flagship sports show Match Of The Day since 1999 – is currently the highest-paid member of staff at the BBC, according to the corporation's official list of published salaries, with an annual wage of £1.75m last year.

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However, when the BBC published its top earners list in 2020, it announced Lineker had signed a new five-year deal that would see him take a 23% pay cut, affecting his salary from 2021.

Outraged followers – of which Lineker has 7.8m – hit back to say they did not find the joke funny.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14:  Gary Lineker speaks during a pro-remain a rally rejecting the the Prime Minister's Brexit deal on November 14, 2018 in London, England. Anti-Brexit groups 'Best for Britain' and 'The People's Vote Campaign' are holding a joint rally tonight to call on MPs to say they are not buying the Prime Minister's Brexit deal.  (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Gary Lineker's joke offended many of his Twitter followers. (Getty Images)

One replied: "Wow! If it's a joke, it's a bad one. If not, then it's just hopelessly insensitive and crass."

While somebody else wrote: "I know you are having banter, and I for one don’t mind that. But in these desperate times, where a lot of people are struggling financially and mentally, your timing isn’t great Gary."

Another tweeted: "Massive fan of your quips Gary. I’m not 'offended' like some comments are insinuating, but gut feeling when I first read this was that it missed the mood of the public. Lots struggling and every bill seems to be increasing."

One Twitter responded: "That’s lovely Gary. I’ve always liked you but not sure about such a tasteless joke when millions, like me, are watching a lifetime of successful business destroyed while also getting zero help. I’ve had NO INCOME since March 2020 but still have to pay your bl***y wages."

But others defended Lineker, with one user pointing out: "I think the joke has gone over most people’s heads. Gary is likely saying he took a pay cut so the BBC didn’t have to do things like this to increase profits."

Presenter Gary Lineker during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2019 at The P&J Live, Aberdeen. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

Gary Lineker presenting the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2019. (Getty Images)

And another said: "Well I thought it was amusing. I also think that the BBC is an incredible bargain and worth every penny. How many of the people whinging about it pay even more [to] all the other streaming services."

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The BBC has been publishing the individual salaries of its highest-paid stars for several years, with Lineker always being in the top two earners – only being overtaken by Chris Evans once when he hosted the Radio 2 breakfast show.

Before that the BBC would publish a lump sum paid to its celebrity talent earning over £1m a year, with Lineker always believed to be among them.

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