Chaos at the BBC after an anti-government tweet from star presenter Gary Lineker

Chaos at the BBC after an anti-government tweet from star presenter Gary Lineker

“Black-out at BBC Sport”, title this Sunday the Sunday Express. In the United Kingdom, the affair has been in the headlines for several days: Gary Lineker, the charismatic presenter of Match Of The Day – which the BBC presents as “the most famous football program in the world” is in turmoil .

Very active on Twitter, the star presenter denounced on Tuesday on this social network the new Conservative government bill, aimed at preventing migrants arriving by the Channel from seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. His tweet evoked “a cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable, in a language not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s”.

The words of the 62-year-old former England striker, followed by nearly 9 million Internet users, sparked a lively controversy, in a context tense around immigration issues but also criticism recurring attacks of impartiality aimed at public broadcasting on the part of the British right.

Embarrassed, the BBC finally decided on Friday to lay off the presenter of “Match Of The Day”. Nicknamed “Mr Nice” for his impeccable behavior throughout his career – he has never received a single yellow card – the former striker is used to expressing his progressive political positions and repeated this week that he fully assumed his words.

Two days after the storm triggered by the announcement of its suspension, no way out of the crisis seems in sight on Sunday. BBC sports programming has been turned upside down for the second day in a row, after the defection of many consultants and commentators, “in solidarity” with Gary Lineker. On Saturday, several football shows were canceled at the last minute, forcing the BBC to apologize to viewers.

BBC boss won’t quit

On Sunday morning, UK Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt said he wanted “the BBC to maintain its reputation for independence and impartiality”. “When you interview me, people need to know that you are doing it on behalf of the public, not for political reasons,” he said.

The BBC is regularly attacked by conservatives who accuse it of having covered Brexit in a biased way and of being interested in urban elites more than the working classes. The government froze the license fee for two years last year.

The opposition, for its part, criticizes the BBC for having bowed to the pressure of power by suspending Gary Lineker. Critics are also mounting against the appointment in 2021, on the advice of the government, of Richard Sharp to the presidency of the BBC.

This former banker, known financial supporter of the Conservative party, would have played the matchmaker shortly before taking office to help his friend and former Prime Minister Boris Johnson obtain a loan of 800,000 pounds (900,000 euros).

“I think BBC chairman Richard Sharp should resign,” said Lib-Dem leader Ed Davey. “The Conservative government has been undermining the BBC for several years, including through its appointments. “Under pressure, the group’s general manager, Tim Davie, refused him “absolutely” to resign. He said he wanted to “settle the situation calmly” and “get Gary back on the air.”

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