Scandal continues to engulf the BBC following the suspension of veteran sports commentator Gary Lineker, who criticised the UK government’s asylum policy. Lineker, the presenter of the BBC’s flagship soccer show Match of the Day, was suspended Friday, March 10th, for comparing the British government to the Nazis in a tweet he refused to take down.
His government’s reluctance to clamp down on asylum seekers crossing the English Channel inspired the tweet:
The dispute has rattled the UK broadcasting corporation with questions about the BBC’s impartiality—and the future of its tax-payer support. The station was forced to suspend most of its weekend sports coverage due to a walkout by most of its sports presenters who acted in solidarity with Lineker.
Lineker made his original comments in a sarcastic response to a tweet by UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman and her plans for increased detention for illegal migrants crossing the English Channel. The conservative British government last week promised to clamp down on illegal Channel crossings as experts predicted 65,000 migrants to make the perilous journey this year.
Both the British Labour Party and Liberal Democrats have responded by collectively calling for the resignation of BBC chairman Richard Sharp for his handling of the crisis. Sharp has previously received criticism for his financial ties to the ruling Tory Party. Critics accuse the BBC of buckling to pressure from the government, although Rishi Sunakhas denied influencing the decision to suspend Lineker.
BBC News confirmed Sunday that talks were underway between Lineker and the station to resolve the matter with expectations that the presenter would return to his role this week.
Under BBC guidelines, presenters are requested to maintain political impartiality, with fellow BBC presenter Laura Kuenssberg admitting that there is a “grey area” over the role of personal social media accounts.
The station is financed through an annual TV licence fee which forces households to pay £145.50 regardless of whether or not they view BBC content. The Conservative Party last year committed to abolishing the licence fee by 2027 when the station’s charter is renewed.