BBC releases statement as Gary Lineker confirmed to return to Match of the Day
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The BBC has released a statement as Gary Lineker's return to Match of the Day is confirmed.
The BBC apologised to Lineker amid the situation, while noting it's been a 'difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences'.
Saturday night's Match Of The Day was on air for just 20 minutes, while Match of the Day 2 aired for 15 minutes.
A statement from Director-General of the BBC, Tim Davie, reads: “Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this. The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.
“Impartiality is important to the BBC. It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression. That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on-air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles. The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.
“Accordingly, we are announcing a review led by an independent expert – reporting to the BBC – on its existing social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs. The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favour of such a review.
“Shortly, the BBC will announce who will conduct that review. Whilst this work is undertaken, the BBC’s current social media guidance remains in place.
“Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend.”
A statement from Lineker adds: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”
The former footballer also took to social media following the announcement, saying that the support he's received has been 'overwhelming'.
"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," he wrote.
"I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost 3 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.
"A final thought: 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.
"We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you."
James Harding, co-founder of Tortoise Media and former director of news at the BBC, previously said the corporation got into a 'muddle' over the issue of impartiality.
“I think it’s part of a bigger muddle on impartiality,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Why do we care about impartiality? We care about making sure that a publicly funded broadcaster that delivers news and information that informs the country is impartial, but people can make up their own minds on political issues.
“But you can’t get to a world in which the BBC is policing the opinions of every writer, director, musician, sports personality, scientist, business entrepreneur.
“Not only can you not actually do it, but the principle is wrong.
“The principle is wrong because it will actually deter people from joining the BBC, it will diminish the BBC.
“But, even more importantly, there are freedom of speech principles here. Those people have lives beyond the BBC and should be able to give voice to what they say.”