Watch: New BBC boss threatens to suspend employees' Twitter accounts
Tim Davie says BBC will suspend employees’ Twitter accounts for impartiality breaches
This includes Gary Lineker, who has been vocal critic of government and Brexit
New BBC boss says: “We will be able to take people off Twitter. I know people want to see hard action on this”
The new BBC boss has threatened to suspend the Twitter accounts of high-profile employees such as Gary Lineker for impartiality breaches.
Director general Tim Davie told MPs new social media guidelines will mean the BBC “will be able to take people off Twitter”.
Appearing at the digital, culture, media and sport committee on Tuesday, Davie was pointedly asked about a “well-known sports presenter” who once tweeted about the government’s coronavirus policy: “Think they’re hoping everyone gets p***** so they forget about their leadership... or lack of.”
That was posted by Match of the Day presenter Lineker – the BBC’s highest-paid employee who recently took a £400,000 pay cut – on 4 July.
Committee chair Julian Knight asked Davie if this was “appropriate” and whether it would be a disciplinary matter under his “brave new world”.
Davie said it would, and that this would include taking employees off Twitter.
He said: “We are going to be publishing in the next few weeks… clear social media guidelines. They will cover both news and current affairs, and beyond news and current affairs.
“We will have, within those guidelines, the enforcement policies will be very clear.
“We will be able to take disciplinary action. We will be able to take people off Twitter. I know people want to see hard action on this.”
He added: “If they want to work for the BBC, I can ask people, you would suspend their Twitter account, absolutely.”
In recent times, Lineker has been known for his criticism of the government and Brexit on Twitter, on which he has more than 7.5m followers.
Ex-footballer Lineker, who after his pay cut now earns £1.35m a year, has previously dismissed suggestions he has been asked to tweet more carefully.
Addressing the issue, Davie said: “I would note that Gary Lineker has actually been very clear in his statements recently, saying ‘I understand I have responsibilities when working at the BBC’.
“Those responsibilities will be clearly laid out.
“I am now the director general so I am running the show, and in my view party political statements are not the right thing for people to be making if they are part of an impartial news organisation.”
Davie took over the top job at the beginning of the month with a warning it is time to “renew” the corporation’s commitment to impartiality: a constant source of controversy surrounding the BBC.