By JILL LAWLESS | Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — The BBC on Monday reversed former soccer great Gary Lineker’s suspension from the airwaves for a tweet that criticized the U.K. government’s new migration policy.
The about-face followed a weekend of chaos and crisis for Britain’s publicly funded national broadcaster, which faced a huge backlash after sidelining one of its best-known hosts for expressing a political opinion.
“Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend,” BBC Director-General Tim Davie said.
Lineker said he was “glad that we have found a way forward.”
Lineker, one of English soccer’s most lauded players and the corporation’s highest-paid television presenter, was suspended Friday after he described the government’s plan to detain and deport migrants arriving by boat as “an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.”
The Conservative government called Lineker’s Nazi comparison offensive and unacceptable, and some lawmakers said the BBC should terminate his contract. The broadcaster said Friday that Lineker would be “stepping back” until he agreed to keep his tweets within BBC impartiality rules.
But critics accused it of suppressing free speech, and the BBC was forced to scrap much of its weekend sports programming after commentators, analysts and Premier League players refused to appear as a show of support for Lineker.
The flagship soccer show “Match of the Day” was reduced from the usual 90 minutes of highlights and analysis to a 20-minute compilation of clips from the day’s games, without commentary or punditry. Other TV and radio soccer shows were pulled from the schedule on Saturday and Sunday as the boycott spread.
Davie insisted Monday that the BBC “did the right thing” by suspending Lineker, but there would now be an independent review of the BBC’s social media rules to address “gray areas” in the guidelines.
“Between now and when the review reports, Gary will abide by the editorial guidelines,” he said.
The furor reflects the distinctive nature of U.K. media, where newspapers are highly opinionated and news broadcasters are required to be balanced — especially the publicly funded BBC, which has a duty to be impartial.
The crisis was a dramatic illustration of the pressures long faced by the 100-year-old BBC in an increasingly polarized political and media world. Those on the right …read more
Source:: The Mercury News