Once again, I find myself in complete agreement with the analysis of one of your contributors (Jim Grace, writing about the Conservatives’ capture of the BBC).
Although I don’t watch Match of the Day, following the Lineker debacle I made a formal complaint to the BBC about long-term right-wing bias within that organisation. The BBC, unexpectedly, replied promptly, but with a chat-bot platitude aimed at football fans and assuming that my complaint was about Gary Lineker’s tweet. It even included a full copy of Director General Tim Davie’s public statement – which amounted to 257 words – along with Lineker’s acceptance of the proposed review of social media guidelines as the ‘way forward’. The response concluded with the rather lame acknowledgement that, maybe, this would not be an appropriate answer.
However, it is really not good enough to say, “If you’ve raised wider concerns in your complaint, responses to a range of these matters will be posted publicly on our website at the address below, which will be updated in the coming weeks”. I have since replied:
“Your response fails to address my complaint that Gary Lineker’s suspension was yet another example of the BBC acting on behalf of the government, and that this pattern of events has persisted for many a year, conspicuously so regarding the feeble pre-Brexit interviews the BBC conducted that amounted to little more than the output of a Brexit Broadcasting Corporation.
I don’t pay my licence fee for such a disservice.”
I hope other readers have made formal complaints to the BBC, which appears to be a long way off the responsibilities stated in its charter.
The BBC’s automated response:
Dear Mr Nicholson
Thanks for contacting us about Gary Lineker.
BBC Director-General, Tim Davie, has released a statement regarding Gary’s use of social media. In it, he’s said the following:
“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.”
Gary himself has also commented on the matter, stating: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”
We’re aware that some have raised a variety of issues aside from Gary’s social media specifically, and we’re sorry that we’re not able to address all of these matters in our response here. If you’ve raised wider concerns in your complaint, responses to a range of these matters will be posted publicly on our website at the address below, which will be updated in the coming weeks.
We’d like to thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with us. We recognise the strength of feeling these issues have provoked across our audience. We’d like to reassure you that this has been heard and discussed across all levels of the BBC.