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Britain’s BBC agrees star football host Gary Lineker can return to broadcasting after fairness controversy

WorldEuropeBritain's BBC agrees star football host Gary Lineker can return to broadcasting after fairness controversy
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Gary Lineker’s tweet and the BBC’s response led to a public backlash and a week of disrupted sporting events as fellow presenters walked out in protest.

Holly Adams / Stringer / Getty Images

LONDON – The BBC, Britain’s public service broadcaster, agreed on Monday that star football presenter Gary Lineker could return to air and pledged to review its social media guidance following a fairness controversy.

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The corporation said Lineker, the former England footballer-turned-TV host and the organisation’s highest-paid star, would return to its flagship football highlights show “Match of the Day” this coming weekend.

It comes at the end of a week in which the BBC’s sports coverage was thrown into chaos after Lineker was forced to “retreat” from presenting after criticizing government policy. The move prompted many of his colleagues to walk out in solidarity.

Director General Tim Davey said, “Everyone recognizes that this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and most importantly our viewers. I apologize for this.”

Davey said the broadcaster “led by an independent expert – reporting to the BBC – will launch a review on its existing social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs “

“Gary is an important part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to presenting our coverage this coming weekend,” he said.

“After a rough few days, I’m glad we found a way through this,” Lineker said via Twitter.

He added, “I want to thank you all for the incredible support, especially my colleagues at BBC Sport, for a remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game, but their support was tremendous.”

“One final thought: No matter how difficult the past few days have been, it cannot be compared to leaving your home to seek refuge in a country far away from persecution or war. For many of you,” Lineker said.

How did the crisis unfold?

Last week, Lineker posted a comment on Twitter in response to the UK’s latest immigration policy, which the BBC deemed to be in breach of its fairness rules.

The comments led to Lineker’s suspension, a very public backlash, and a weekend of disrupted sports programming on both TV and radio as fellow presenters walked out in protest. The BBC’s response led to a walkout among Lineker’s colleagues, including Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Alex Scott, which disrupted sporting events on Saturday and Sunday.

The UK government posted a video of Interior Minister Suella Braverman outlining new illegal immigration legislation designed to prevent people from crossing the English Channel in small boats. Braverman said those people would be immediately returned to their home countries or to a “safe third country” such as Rwanda.

Lineker reposted the video with the comment: “Oh my god, this is beyond awful.”

The comment caused a flurry of reactions on social media, prompting Lineker to post a follow-up tweet describing the bill: “an extremely brutal policy directed at the most vulnerable in language that was introduced by Germany in the 30s”. No different from the language used.”

The BBC on Friday suspended Lineker, who was employed by the broadcaster on a freelance basis.

“we consider [Lineker’s] Recent social media activity is in breach of our guidelines,” a BBC statement read at the time.

The BBC apologized for the “limited sports programming” it was able to provide in his absence – which included a shortened version of “Match of the Day” with no commentators or panellists – and said it recognized that it The BBC would be “disappointing” for sports fans. ,

The BBC said: “We have never said that Gary should be an opinion-free zone, or that he cannot consider issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should refrain from taking party political sides Needed.” issue or political dispute.”

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