‘Gary Lineker 1 – BBC credibility nil’: Serving BBC journalists accuse Tim Davie of being ‘so out of touch with his own corporation, staff and programmes that he didn’t foresee chaos’ as director general insists he didn’t back down amid uproar
- Tim Davie says he took ‘proportionate action’ and insists he did not back down
- But BBC journalists say he failed to foresee chaos following Lineker’s suspension
Serving BBC journalists have accused boss Tim Davie of being ‘so out of touch’ that he failed to foresee the chaos after Gary Lineker was asked to step back from presenting Match of the Day.
Lineker, 62, was taken off air last week for a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.
But he will return to TV screens to present live coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley on Saturday after the BBC’s football coverage was hit across the weekend.
In the wake of Lineker’s suspension, fellow pundits, presenters and reporters – including Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Alex Scott – all walked out in solidarity.
In an interview with the BBC’s media correspondent David Sillito, director general Davie said he had taken ‘proportionate action’ over Lineker’s controversial tweet and insisted he had not backed down in the row.
Director general Tim Davie says he took ‘proportionate action’ over Gary Lineker’s controversial twee
Lineker, 62, was taken off air last week for a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany
In the wake of Lineker’s suspension, fellow pundits, presenters and reporters – including Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Alex Scott – all walked out in solidarity
But writing for BBC News, Mr Sillito said: ‘I asked Davie how was he so out of touch with his own corporation, staff and programmes that he did not foresee the chaos that would happen.’
He also said the impact on the BBC’s football coverage over the weekend was ‘a pretty clear sign there are many within the BBC who feel Lineker has been treated unfairly’.
READ MORE: Ian Wright and Alan Shearer WON’T face punishment for boycotting Match of the Day in support of Gary Lineker
Mr Sillito continued: ‘There are also those who are furious that such a highly-paid star of the BBC has not been punished for describing a statement by the home secretary on a key matter of public policy as “beyond awful” and comparing the language used to set out the government’s asylum plan to “that used by Germany in the 30s”.
‘Nor has there been an apology from Lineker for tweets that the BBC says broke its guidelines.’
Former BBC news executive Sir Craig Oliver also commented on the weekend’s sporting schedule, saying the corporation made the ‘wrong choice’ when it asked Lineker to step back, which led to other BBC sports staff refusing to do their shows.
‘I think it’s a total mess,’ he added
Sir Craig, who was later the Downing Street communications chief when David Cameron was prime minister, told BBC News: ‘I think what’s happened here is Gary Lineker 1 – BBC credibility nil.
‘The reality is the BBC today has announced it will have a review of its social media guidelines. In fact, it needs a review of how it handles crisis like these.’
In the interview with Mr Sillito, Davie said: ‘What we’ve agreed and I’ve spent time talking to Gary and we’ve had lots of discussion is that between now and when the review report is out, Gary will abide by the editorial guidelines, and that’s where we are.’
And addressing accusations he failed to foresee the chaos, he added: ‘They obviously were put in a very difficult situation. I think people across the BBC, if you talk to them, are all very passionate about our standing as an impartial broadcaster.
Television presenter and former footballer Lineker leaves his home in London today as the BBC invited him back to present Match of the Day
Gary Lineker announces his return to Match of the Day in a defiant series of tweets, in which he spoke about refugees
‘I want to fight for a BBC where we can have proper calm debate, facilitate free speech.’
Davie’s comments come as the BBC was accused of a ‘pathetic capitulation’ for backing down on the issue.
READ MORE ‘Gary Lineker – the man who destroyed the BBC licence fee’: MPs warn Tim Davie his ‘pathetic capitulation to the star is end of the road’ for the broadcaster
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Cabinet minister and long-time BBC critic, linked the row to the future of BBC funding as he warned that the ‘licence fee has passed its sell-by date’.
‘He (Gary Lineker) can say what he likes. The issue is that the BBC is the state broadcaster and that it’s funded by a tax on televisions. If it weren’t, then we wouldn’t need to worry about its impartiality,’ he told GB News.
Conservative backbencher Philip Davies said he believes the decision to reinstate Lineker as Match of the Day host with no censure or new bar on his tweets has caused catastrophic damage to the corporation’s claims of impartiality.
Mr Davies told MailOnline: ‘This pathetic capitulation by the BBC is the start of the end for the licence fee.
‘His epitaph will read “Gary Lineker – the man who destroyed the BBC licence fee”. This is a watershed moment. It is now inevitable that the licence fee will end – and it will end sooner than would otherwise have been the case because of Gary Lineker and his left-wing friends at the BBC. And for that we can rejoice.
The BBC can no longer credibly claim that it believes in political impartiality and – more importantly – it has proved that it doesn’t have the stomach to enforce it. It is now a free for all at the BBC.’
Scott Benton, Tory MP for Blackpool South, said: ‘The licence fee is a decades out of date, regressive tax which people shouldn’t have to pay simply to watch TV.
‘I’ve long called for it to be scrapped. This self-inflicted chaos and their obvious unwillingness to enforce impartiality will only strengthen calls for the fee to go’.
MailOnline understands those who walked out in support of the MOTD host, including Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Mark Chapman, will also face no action from BBC bosses, with Lineker thanking them for their ‘remarkable show of solidarity’.
Meanwhile, Lineker today refused to apologise and used his reinstatement by the BBC to hammer home his views on migrants and suggest some of his critics are intolerant.
He said: ‘However difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.
Protesters gather outside the BBC’s main sports studio in Salford to show support for Gary Lineker over the weekend
‘We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you.’
Davie said in a statement the corporation would now commission an independent review of its social media guidelines, particularly for freelancers.
Minutes after the official BBC statement was published, Lineker tweeted: ‘After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this.
‘I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.
‘I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost three decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.
In a follow-up tweet, Lineker said he wanted ‘to thank Tim Davie for his understanding during this difficult period’.
He added: ‘He has an almost impossible job keeping everybody happy, particularly in the area of impartiality. I am delighted that we’ll continue to fight the good fight, together.’
Confirming Lineker would return to Match of the Day on Saturday, Mr Davie said the presenter ‘will abide by the editorial guidelines’ until a review of the BBC’s social media policy is complete.
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