BBC issues new social media guidance for stars after Lineker row
The BBC published new guidance Thursday on how its stars can use social media, after a review over impartiality prompted by former footballer Gary Lineker criticising the UK government’s asylum policy.
The broadcaster’s independent review recommended that while a programme is on air, and for a two-week window before and after, presenters on flagship shows must not endorse or attack a political party.
They should also refrain from criticising the character of individual politicians in the UK, or take up an official role in campaigning groups, it said.
“High-profile presenters outside of journalism should be able to express views on issues and policies — including matters of political contention — but stop well short of campaigning in party politics or for activist organisations,” the review concluded.
The publicly funded broadcaster said the guidance applies to hosts of top shows such as “MasterChef”, “Dragons’ Den”, “Antiques Roadshow” and “Strictly Come Dancing”, as well as leading radio presenters.
It does not include contributors, pundits, judges or guest hosts but does apply to presenters of major sporting events and its internationally popular “Top Gear” show.
Meanwhile, “strict requirements” for impartiality still stands for those working in news, current affairs, factual journalism and senior leadership.
“Clarity on how those working for the BBC use social media is not only important for them and the organisation, but also for our audiences,” BBC director general Tim Davie said in response to the review.
“The new guidance, which includes new requirements for presenters of our flagship programmes, is both proportionate and fair and protects these commitments.”
Former England striker Lineker, who hosts the BBC’s flagship “Match of the Day” football highlights programme, also welcomed the new guidelines, saying on social media they were “all very sensible”.
He is a freelance presenter who is technically not a member of BBC staff.
He was taken off air by bosses in March after comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum policy to the rhetoric of Nazi-era Germany.
The former Leicester, Everton, Tottenham and Barcelona forward has hosted refugees in his home and has often slammed government policies, particularly on immigration.
His comments in March overshadowed the announcement of plans to toughen laws governing asylum seekers, including the removal of those coming to the UK across the Channel from northern France in small boats.
Lineker’s removal from the airwaves sparked chaos across the BBC’s sporting coverage as presenters, pundits and commentators showed their backing for Lineker by refusing to work.
A compromise was reached within days which saw Lineker return to screens while the corporation launched the review into its social media guidelines, which was led by John Hardie, the former boss of Independent Television News (ITN).
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