Monday, 22 Apr 2024

Labour rages over ‘much-loved’ Lineker being pulled off air by BBC

Labour’s shadow culture secretary fumes over Gary Lineker being pulled off air

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Labour today raged at Gary Lineker being taken off air for slamming the Government’s illegal immigration crackdown. Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said the “much-loved” Match of the Day presenter being told to step back from hosting the show over the weekend for tweeting something “the Government doesn’t like” sounds like “Putin’s Russia”.

Asking an urgent question in the Commons this afternoon, Ms Powell said: “What does she (Culture minister Julia Lopez) think it looks like to the outside world that a much-loved sports presenter is taken off air for tweeting something the Government doesn’t like?

“It sounds more like Putin’s Russia to me.”

But culture minister Julia Lopez insisted the saga was a matter for the BBC to resolve internally.

She also branded Labour’s comparison of the Government to the Putin regime as “disgraceful”.

Ms Lopez said: “I also think it was distasteful to compare the Government’s actions or otherwise to the Putin regime, I think it is a disgraceful comparison to make, and I think it is way off the mark.”

Elsewhere during the debate, Tory MP Scott Benton raised questions over the future of the BBC licence fee following the saga.

The Blackpool South MP said: “The self-inflicted chaos of the last few days in their apparent unwillingness to enforce their own impartiality rules has frankly made a laughing stock of the BBC.

“It is clear that it is now grossly overpaid sports presenters rather than executives who are truly calling the shots.

“Many of my constituents have long regarded the BBC licence fee as a regressive, decades-old, out-of-date tax. Isn’t it time we had a grown-up conversation about its future?”

Ms Lopez said the Government will be looking at questions over the licence fee ahead of the renewal of the royal charter in 2027.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash suggested establishing an independent “adjudicating body for impartiality” to monitor the BBC.

He said: “Impartiality is public purpose number one of the royal charter, which I helped to negotiate in 2016.

“Given that guidelines simply do not work, may I suggest the setting-up of an independent adjudicating body for impartiality, alongside Ofcom, given that the BBC receives £5 billion a year – largely from the licence taxpayer – and that last year out of the 430,000 complaints made to the BBC, only 325 were dealt with and only 14 fully upheld.”

Ms Lopez said the mid-term review is examining the complaints system and editorial standards and impartiality.

Acting chair of the culture select committee Damian Green told the Commons the affair had been “embarrassingly terrible for the BBC”.

He added: “Does she also agree with me that, in return, presenters whose reputations and bank balances are enhanced by regular appearances on popular BBC shows also owe a reciprocal responsibility to the BBC, which may include some self-restraint in what they say and do in public?”

Conservative former minister Sir John Hayes added: “Mindful that the minister doesn’t want to comment on self-indulgent, out of touch, insensitive, avaricious, smug and arrogant football pundits, and in mind too of the important role the BBC has as a national institution made special by both its charter and the mode of its funding, will she affirm that impartiality is critical to its continuing role?”

Ms Lopez replied: “It is the mode of the BBC’s funding that makes it different in how it must respond to cases like this. Trust and impartiality is fundamental to the social compact that underpins the licence fee.”

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