NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 13:37
The BBC has unveiled new rules on how top presenters can express their opinions on social media. New agreements were needed after sports commentator Gary Lineker became discredited due to criticism of Prime Minister Sunak’s asylum policy.
The popular Match of the Day presenter spoke on Twitter in March of a cruel policy that is “not much different from that of Germany in the 1930s”. Conservatives condemned the comments and the BBC suspended Lineker. However, this led to a boom in support for him: analysts and presenters refused to work as long as Lineker remained off the screen.
The BBC quickly backed down, acknowledging that the policy was ambiguous and had “gray areas”. For example, Lineker relied on the fact that he is a freelancer and also does sports on the public broadcaster, not politics. An independent investigation led by former ITN chief John Hardie now provides clarification.
Master Chef a Top Gear
It is now forbidden for prominent presenters to attack or support a political party while their program is running and for two weeks before and after. They are also not allowed to criticize individual British politicians, speak out on controversial topics during election times or play an official role within a campaign.
The rules apply to the BBC’s flagship shows such as Antiques Roadshow, Dragon’s Den, Master Chef and Top Gear. Match of the Day and sports competitions are also covered by the scheme, in addition to some radio programs. Employees of news programs are expected to remain impartial in any case.
Employees who do not play a decisive role are called upon to adhere to the “highest possible civility” online by approaching others respectfully and not offending anyone, even if they themselves are treated unfairly.
The BBC hopes that the new arrangement will restrict presenters’ freedom of expression as little as possible, while still maintaining the broadcaster’s independence. Expressing an opinion is not prohibited, but actively campaigning is. “Because of their visibility, they have a responsibility to respect the impartiality of the BBC,” Hardie reasons.
Gary Lineker can live with the new rules. On X he calls it “all very reasonable”.