Director General Tim Davie has rushed to Manchester from London today to try to quell a rebellion over the Gary Lineker scandal amongst disaffected BBC Sport staff who are rounding on him and their female boss.
Mr Davie, who is fighting for his own job, is heading up to MediaCity in Salford to talk to BBC Sport staff across radio, tv and news along with Charlotte Moore, his £400,000-a-year ‘chief content officer’.
BBC staff have been invited to sessions from this lunchtime so the executives can ‘hear from staff, take questions and reflect on the events of the last few days’.
But behind the scenes insiders claim that civil war has broken out between staff and management over whether bosses were right to U-turn and then apologise to the Match of the Day star for taking him off the air over his Nazi slur.
Criticism of Lineker was voiced at a series of internal meetings yesterday, where there was open incredulity at head of sport Barbara Slater when she claimed bosses could ‘not have seen how it would spiral’ after Lineker was suspended and a host of pundits refused to work. Those who decided to go on air were abused on social media and called ‘scabs’ by Lineker’s supports.
Tim Davie raced to Manchester to speak to disgruntled BBC Sport staff today with Charlotte Moore, his £400,000-a-year ‘chief content officer’
Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker returns to his home in London with his dog after the BBC welcomed him back with no punishment for his anti-Tory tweets
Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, has been met with hostility and incredulity, according to reports, after she told staff that the fallout from suspending Lineker could not have been predicted
Ms Slater was also asked if Lineker and other pundits such as Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Alex Scott were aware of the effect of their actions had on staff. And some asked why Match of the Day, which ended up being shown over 20 minutes with no commentary, could not have been presented by someone else.
Ms Slater, who apologised for the mess, triggered further upset when she responded: ‘Because he (Lineker) is the best in the business.’
Sportsmail understands a poll, presented to Slater, saw 80 per cent of respondents rate senior management zero out of five for the way they handled the situation.
On Monday, BBC sports presenter Mark Chapman returned after boycotting his weekend shows and noted that some staff members had been ‘at the receiving end of abuse for just doing their jobs’.
He added: ‘It is disgusting and unfair, and it is ironic that, in a row over impartiality, we have all been seen to be taking sides, and I feel there are lessons to be learned by all involved.’
The BBC reported on Monday that Mr Davie had sent an email to all staff in which he said: ‘I want to acknowledge how challenging the last few days have been and to say how grateful I am for all your work during this weekend’s disruption.’
The escalating crisis came as Emily Maitlis aimed a barb at the BBC over the Gary Lineker scandal – claiming her former bosses who repeatedly rapped her for impartiality breaches ‘turn a blind eye to some people land hold others up to scrutiny’.
The former Newsnight presenter, who left the broadcaster last year to host The News Agents podcast, suggested BBC senior management had been inconsistent in the way it upholds its impartiality rules.
Maitlis, who repeatedly fell foul of BBC guidelines and described them as one of her reasons for leaving, told Politico that ‘the last few days has exposed organizational weakness’ at the corporation.
Some BBC staff have confronted bosses and demanded to know if Lineker, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer are aware of the impact their actions have had on the BBC and its staff
‘Gary Lineker was not unusual in his expressions of his political priorities — we literally see it the whole time from people who make money from the BBC — so the management has to explain why it turns a blind eye to some examples and holds others up to scrutiny from the tabloid papers,’ she said.
BBC pays Lineker’s boycotting buddies over £1.5m a year
Despite their high profile, and the fact most of them were due to cover sports for the BBC at the weekend, these stars – who collectively earn more than £1,589,994 – all refused to work in solidarity with Gary Lineker.
Salary: £450,000 – £454,999
One of the regular pundits for Match Of The Day, Alan Shearer, 52, is a former Newcastle and England legend.
Salary: £220,000 – £224,999
The former central midfielder, 40, is a regular pundit on Match Of The Day. Since 2021, he has also been a permanent host of The One show.
Salary: £285,000 – £289,999
The Welsh radio and TV presenter is the current host of Final Score on BBC One. Deputising for Gary Lineker and Mark Chapman, Jason Mohammad, 49, occasionally appears on Match Of The Day and Match Of The Day 2.
Salary: £250,000 – £254,999
TV and radio broadcaster Mark Chapman, 49, presents Match Of The Day 2 and hosts Sports Report and The Monday Night Club on BBC 5 Live, which he presented last night.
Salary: £195,000 – £199,999
Former English football player Alex Scott, 38, is a presenter on Football Focus and covered the sport at the 2020 Olympic Games alongside Clare Balding. She has also presented The One Show and worked alongside Gary Lineker as a presenter of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.
Salary: £160,000 – £164,999
Colin Murray, 46, hosts the sports-themed Saturday morning comedy panel show Fighting Talk on BBC Radio 5 Live.
- There were other stars and pundits whose pay is not made public because their BBC salaries are under £150,000 (13 in total): Ian Wright, Kelly Somers, Dion Dublin, Leon Osman, Jermain Defoe, Glenn Murray, Anita Asante, Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen, Steven Wyeth, Marc Webber, Chris Wise and Guy Mowbray.
Maitlis suggested the BBC’s director-general Tim Davie had not been forceful enough in defending the broadcaster against attacks from ministers. ‘The BBC can’t be taking lessons in impartiality from the government of the day,’ she added.
Jon Sopel, who left the BBC with Maitlis to start The News Agents, also criticised the broadcaster by suggesting its impartiality strategy had ‘exploded’.
‘The BBC, by taking this stand, gives the appearance that it is taking its orders from Downing Street and a Right-wing tabloid press and a Right-wing chairman who did not declare his facility of a loan to Boris Johnson when he was Prime Minister,’ he said on the podcast.
‘So when Gary Lineker turns round to the BBC and says ”No, I’m not going to take this tweet down”, the BBC puffs out its chest and says we are all-powerful – and then discovers, it’s not.’
Sopel accused the BBC of making its staff feel that they had been ‘trampled on’.
It comes as a major battle broke out at the BBC between staff and management over whether bosses were right to U-turn and then apologise to the Match of the Day star for taking him off the air over his Nazi slur.
As some critics said the Lineker scandal will be the death knell for the licence fee and Mr Davie’s tenure for failing to get a grip on impartiality, one worker for the broadcaster said: ‘The BBC blinked first. You can feel the power draining away.’
Criticism of Lineker was voiced at a series of internal meetings, with bosses asked if Lineker and other pundits such as Alan Shearer and Ian Wright were aware of the effect of their actions on staff.
Some are also angered by a perceived inconsistency. Sportsmail understands social media accounts are closely monitored by BBC officials, with some reprimanded if they as much as ‘like’ a political view on Twitter.
One BBC staffer told The Times: ‘There is frustration with Tim Davie and central management too, both for their handling of the situation and for not clarifying the policy on impartiality in the past. And there is some anger towards Gary. He’s had enough warnings’.
Lineker will return to TV screens to present live coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley on Saturday.
Mr Davie said he had taken ‘proportionate action’ over Lineker’s controversial tweet and insisted he had not backed down in the row.
But senior figures at the BBC fear the climbdown will lead to a ‘free for all’ of presenters and reporters testing impartiality rules by expressing their political opinions online while a review into the corporation’s social media guidelines is conducted.
The corporation has said it is commissioning an independent review of its social media guidelines, particularly for freelancers, but this could take months.
Lee Anderson, deputy chairman of the Conservatives, described the BBC as ‘spineless’ over its handling of the issue.
He said: ‘In football, no player is bigger than the club – but Lineker has shown he is bigger than the BBC.’
A senior BBC source also told The Telegraph: ‘One would hope he (Lineker) has heard and taken very carefully on board the damage that he has done.
‘This has not come to an end but I think that Tim Davie has come through it so far in one piece. It has been a violent business.’
Gary Lineker (pictured) will return to TV screens to present live coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley on Saturday
The tweet that landed Gary Lineker in hot trouble last week after he compared the language used to launch a new government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany
Meanwhile, BBC stars are said to have taken the corporation’s decision to allow Lineker to return as a ‘victory’ and a sign that management is now weakened.
An employee said: ‘The BBC blinked first. You can feel the power draining away.’
It comes as insiders have disclosed a ‘huge rift’ in the BBC Sport department, with some outraged by the way the debacle played out and a snap poll seen by Sportsmail revealing overwhelming contempt for bosses.
On a day of unprecedented anger at the broadcaster’s Salford HQ, Sportsmail understands furious staff members confronted director of sport Ms Slater over the way bosses dealt with the saga at a series of highly uncomfortable meetings.
It comes as serving BBC journalists have accused Mr Davie of being ‘so out of touch’ that he failed to foresee the chaos after Lineker was asked to step back from presenting Match of the Day.
In an interview with the BBC’s media correspondent David Sillito, Mr Davie said he had taken ‘proportionate action’ over Lineker’s controversial tweet and insisted he had not backed down in the row.
But writing for BBC News, Mr Sillito said: ‘I asked Davie how was he so out of touch with his own corporation, staff and programmes that he did not foresee the chaos that would happen.’
He also said the impact on the BBC’s football coverage over the weekend was ‘a pretty clear sign there are many within the BBC who feel Lineker has been treated unfairly’.
Mr Sillito continued: ‘There are also those who are furious that such a highly-paid star of the BBC has not been punished for describing a statement by the home secretary on a key matter of public policy as ‘beyond awful’ and comparing the language used to set out the government’s asylum plan to ‘that used by Germany in the 30s’.
‘Nor has there been an apology from Lineker for tweets that the BBC says broke its guidelines.’
Mr Davie suspended Lineker after he compared Government language on asylum seekers to Germany in the 1930s. That triggered a boycott by top names including Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Mark Chapman.
Radio 5 Live programmes were also scrapped, including the 606 phone-ins and build-up to Saturday and Sunday matches.
Commentators Ian Dennis, Alistair Bruce-Ball and John Murray covered games for 5 Live in circumstances laced with intense pressure. They were subjected to online abuse, with some branding them ‘scabs’.
An internal poll revealed to Sportsmail showed fury at the way the situation was handled
On Monday, Mr Davie said sorry to those impacted, announcing a review on social media guidelines. Lineker will be back for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final between Burnley and Manchester City.
‘Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences,’ Mr Davie said. ‘I apologise for this.’
Lineker tweeted: ‘After a surreal few days, I’m delighted we have navigated a way through this.
‘I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity.
‘Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.’
Chapman told Monday Night Club on 5 Live: ‘This weekend has been miserable and difficult for everyone involved.
‘It is ironic that in a row over impartiality we have all been seen to be taking sides and I feel there are lessons to be learnt by all involved.’
His colleague, Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton, added: ‘I’m glad the situation has been resolved.’
The BBC have received widespread criticism over their handling of the situation, including from broadcaster Piers Morgan and Sportsmail’s Simon Jordan.
Morgan felt the organisation had handled the situation poorly, telling talkSPORT: ‘It’s not a debate about impartiality as much as it’s a debate about free speech.
‘Gary Lineker is not a BBC employee, he’s a freelancer, and like many freelancers who do stuff for the BBC, he reserves the right to have his opinions on his Twitter feed.’
While Jordan also said on the radio station: ‘What they [BBC] did was handle it in a disastrously poor way, they didn’t communicate it properly, it looks like it’s been handed down from the Tories – and it may well have been.
‘It may well have been a directive from the Tory government, saying ‘we don’t like this’, and clearly some people think it is. I don’t care if that’s the case, but what do need to have is a BBC that operates with clear guidelines.’
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11858013/Tim-Davie-BBC-bosses-hold-crisis-meetings-staff-radio-TV-news-Linekergate.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Tim Davie and BBC bosses hold crisis meetings with staff across radio, TV and news on ‘Linekergate’