BBC in trouble over Gary Lineker's tweet about the Israel ban?
BBC in trouble over Gary Lineker’s tweet about the Israel ban?

The BBC is in a lot of trouble because its highest-paid anchor has been accused of breaking the balance rules for the second time in less than a year.

Variety has learned that BBC’s chairman of the board, Tim Davie, and head of content, Charlotte Moore, “dropped everything” on Monday to have an urgent meeting about Gary Lineker’s retweet of a post asking FIFA and the IOC to ban Israel from football tournaments.

A BBC representative said that Davie and Moore had not cleared their schedules to talk about the issue, and they would not confirm if they had met.

The Palestinian Football Association asked @iocmedia, @FIFAcom, and all other regional and international sports bodies to quickly do something about Israel’s serious human rights violations and hold the country legally responsible. This was the original tweet from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott.

Coworkers have apparently called Lineker the “Tucker Carlson of the U.K.” because of how controversial he is on social media. He is said to have broken the broadcaster’s impartiality rules by retweeting the post, which he then deleted.

As of September 2018, the BBC implemented new social media rules after Lineker was temporarily banned for posting about the U.K.’s immigration policy. These rules say that hosts of the BBC’s most popular shows, like “Match of the Day,” must not take sides in political issues while their shows are airing and for two weeks before and after.

Everyone who works on factual journalism, in every area, is also expected to follow the social media rules. The rules say, “Do not support campaigns (for example, by using hashtags), no matter how good the cause seems or how accepted or uncontroversial their message seems to be.” “Don’t use “virtue signalling” like reposts, likes, or joining online campaigns to show your personal view, even if the cause seems good.”

“Everyone working for the BBC” is also told to “be very careful when commenting on the most controversial issues.”

The BBC wouldn’t say anything, but a source told Variety, “No rules were broken, but we all agreed that the tweet should be taken down.”

Since joining X (formerly known as Twitter) in 2012, Lineker, a former football player who is now a broadcaster, has sent out almost 50,000 tweets, many of which are controversial. He gets £1.35 million ($1.74 million) a year from the company, which makes him its highest-paid star. In 2009–2013, he worked for Al Jazeera, a TV station run by Qatar, and was said to have been paid £1.6 million.

The most recent uproar began on Saturday when Lineker retweeted the post calling for a boycott. The post included photos of people asking FIFA and the International Olympic Committee to stop the Jewish country from playing in future football games.

After some U.K. MPs said Lineker, who is currently hosting “Match of the Day,” had broken the BBC’s rules on fairness, the host removed the retweet without making a fuss.

The rules for social media say, “If you know you’ve done something wrong, fix it quickly and openly. Usually, this means linking or referring to the original post instead of deleting it.”

After the post, a source told British media like The Telegraph that Lineker had “misunderstood” it and thought he was retweeting a news story about the country being banned from tournaments instead of a call to action. Variety has learned that the BBC has agreed with this reasoning. As stated in the rules, “Do not link to anything you haven’t read fully.”

Variety has learned that Davie and Moore talked about it for “the whole day” on Monday. Even so, the BBC hasn’t said anything about the controversy in public yet, which has both current and former workers fuming.

“It seems very clear that Gary Lineker has broken the BBC’s impartiality rules, this time in relation to the specific area that he presents for the BBC,” said Danny Cohen, who used to be the head of BBC1. “The message he shared again supports the racist movement to boycott Israel, and the use of the word “genocide” is deeply offensive to the Jewish community.” It doesn’t help to delete the post after it has been shared by millions of people. The top leaders of the BBC should move right away. They are once again showing that they are willfully blind to racism and antisemitism problems in the company if they don’t do this.

Someone who currently works at the BBC told Variety that top management’s failure to hold Lineker accountable “makes them look moronic.” The person asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

Moore’s silence is seen as even more damning because she is the BBC’s new senior sponsor for the company’s new Jewish Staff Network. Variety can reveal that the network is in the process of being set up after Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7. It is planned that the network will “help support the BBC in taking a leading role against antisemitism in the national conversation.”

The BBC worker says, “Her silence sends the wrong message.”

Some people think that the BBC is hesitant to take action against Lineker because they tried to punish him last year for a tweet about the U.K.’s immigration policy, which led to him being temporarily banned from broadcasting in March of that year. Three days later, he was brought back after his co-hosts quit in a show of support, leaving “Match of the Day” to run without any commentary.

Variety has learned that the BBC is afraid of another uprising if they try to punish the host, who has been on “Match of the Day” for almost 30 years. One person, who did not want to be named, said, “They’re afraid that if they fire him, other BBC Sports staff will also leave.”

With the Euros (the European football title) coming up in just a few months, a walkout in the department would be even more important.

The BBC said it would review its social media policy after the last Lineker scandal, especially when it comes to independent hosts on big-name shows. When the new rules came out in September of last year, Lineker tweeted that he thought they were “very sensible.”

In November, Carol Vorderman, a longtime BBC radio host, said she had been fired because her social media posts broke the new rules about neutrality.

By the time the press arrived, Lineker’s rep had not replied.

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