BBC has ‘undermined its credibility’ with Lineker suspension, says Greg Dyke

The BBC has “undermined its own credibility” as it will be viewed as having bowed to government pressure over its decision to stand Gary Lineker down from hosting duties on Match of the Day, its former director general Greg Dyke has said.

Dyke’s comments came after Lineker was suspended on Friday from the BBC for breaching impartiality guidelines after criticising the government’s asylum policies.

Dyke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is a long-established precedent in the BBC that is that if you’re an entertainment presenter or you’re a football presenter, then you are not bound by those same [impartiality] rules.

“The real problem of today is that the BBC has undermined its own credibility by doing this because it looks like – the perception out there – that the BBC has bowed to government pressure.

“And once the BBC does that, then you’re in real problems. The perception out there is going to be that Gary Lineker, a much-loved television presenter, was taken off air after government pressure on a particular issue.”

Asked whether Lineker’s tweet was acceptable, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We live in a world of freedom of speech and therefore, yes. He didn’t broadcast it on the BBC, it was a tweet he did privately.”

Dyke went on to say: “I think what the BBC did yesterday was mistaken. And I’ve over the years since I left the BBC I have never gone public criticising the leadership of the BBC and the decisions they take, because I know what a difficult job it is, and difficult decisions have to be taken.”

But, he said, the precedent at the corporation was that “news and current affairs employees are expected to be impartial and not the rest”.

“If you start applying the rules of news and current affairs to everybody who works for the BBC, where does it end?” he added.

The Labour deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said Lineker’s suspension was “an assault on free speech”.

She tweeted: “The BBC’s cowardly decision to take Gary Lineker off air is an assault on free speech in the face of political pressure from Tory politicians. They should rethink.”

The Guardian