UK: BBC in crisis after Lineker’s ouster


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Status: 03/12/2023 11:09 am

Nun “Match of the Day” is the name of Great Britain’s most important football show. Hardly anyone would have thought that it could become a political issue about refugee policy and freedom of the press within hours. But that is exactly what happened.

The British BBC’s decision to ban star presenter and former national soccer player Gary Lineker from screens for his criticism of the conservative government’s asylum policy has triggered a storm of indignation – and plunged the broadcaster into a deep crisis.

Experts, TV employees and footballers showed solidarity with the 62-year-old – with the result that “Match of the Day”, Great Britain’s most important football show, had to do without a moderator and experts on Saturday.

BBC Director General Tim Davie then announced on Sunday that Lineker would be back on the air. “Gary is an excellent TV journalist. To me, success means that Gary is back on the air,” Davie said in an interview with the channel, according to the BBC. However, he did not explain how the dispute should be resolved. Everyone wanted to calmly resolve the situation, Davie said simply.

Lineker accuses government of Nazi rhetoric

It all started with a tweet by Lineker on Tuesday, in which he compared the Conservative government’s rhetoric on refugees to Nazi rhetoric from the 1930s.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Interior Minister Suella Braverman had previously presented a bill that would deny people who entered the country irregularly the right to seek asylum. In this context, Braverman had spoken of an “invasion” by boat people. The British government wants to first hold migrants who enter the country without official permission in shelters and then expel them to Rwanda or other countries.

Criticism of the draft law came not only from the opposition, but also from the UN refugee organization UNHCR, which accused Great Britain of breaching international obligations.

Several Conservative MPs called for consequences for the ex-footballer, but Lineker refused to apologize. The BBC finally suspended its highest-paid presenter on Friday.

Wave of solidarity with Lineker

What the institution probably did not expect: His colleagues on “Match of the Day”, the ex-soccer stars Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, announced that they would not be on the show either. Several BBC colleagues joined.

The footballers’ union PFA backed Premier League players who refused to give interviews to the show. Other sports programs on radio and TV also had to be cancelled. The BBC apologized to fans on Saturday for the limited coverage.

Lineker consistently shares political views

Lineker is a football icon like Jürgen Klinsmann or Rudi Völler in Germany and has been the face of “Match of the Day” for more than 20 years. He has 8.8 million followers on Twitter and in the past has repeatedly shared political views that clashed with the conservative government in London. Above all, the moderator, who works independently for the BBC, openly spoke out against Brexit and thus made powerful enemies among the Tories.

The BBC has been under pressure from Brexit supporters and right-wing populists in the conservative Tory party for years. According to their account, the public broadcaster is riddled with left-leaning journalists who represent an urban elite. Actions like the Lineker case seem like anticipatory obedience on the part of the BBC to avoid such criticism.

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