We believe the BBC has created a crisis where none existed. The attacks on Gary Lineker’s tweet were largely a confected outrage on the part of a number of right wing newspapers, including commercial rivals of the BBC with a self-interested agenda. This issue could easily have been resolved by pointing to the presence on the BBC of a number of ‘right wing’ commentators and presenters including the plain speaking Lord Sugar.
We believe there was no need to suspend Gary Lineker at any stage – but, if the BBC believed he breached impartiality guidelines, why was he not suspended at the time of the tweet? Instead, through its prevarication and delay, the BBC has exposed itself to a justifiable charge that it has bowed to political pressure – a much more serious affair than the tweeted opinion of a sports commentator. At a time when the Chair is under extreme scrutiny for his undeclared proximity to the former Prime Minister, this decision – just as the story was, correctly, dying down – looks like editorial cowardice.
This affair will now raise legitimate fears about how the BBC will handle pressure during a general election, where culture warriors will be seeking every advantage.
The BBC should reinstate Gary Lineker, affirm its commitment to impartiality and get on with the job of covering events in the real world – which include Match of the Day.