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‘Arrogance stinks’ BBC stars told to keep opinions to themselves

Gary Lineker ‘could be a force for good’ says Nick de Bois

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Rupert Lowe waded into the row over BBC presenters’ following the broadcaster’s impartiality guidelines on social media. His intervention came as BBC Director General Tim Davie told MPs at a select committee hearing he had discussions over the years with Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, who has been criticised for tweeting about issues including climate change and refugees.

Mr Lowe, a former Chairman at Southampton FC, tweeted today (September 6): “BBC ‘stars’ and presenters being paid vast amounts of money need to keep their opinions to themselves.

“If they want to spout off about how they hate the Tories or Brexit that’s fine, but don’t expect to get a penny from licence fee payers. The arrogance stinks.”

Mr Lowe’s tweet sparked a debate on the social media platform with fellow Twitter user Lady Blue replying: “I agree Rupert. The arrogance of BBC ‘stars’ and presenters stinks. They are paid to report the facts not their opinions. If they are not able to they should leave or be sacked.”

Another Twitter user chimed in: “BBC presenters with any political bias should leave their opinions at home. They are the reason I no longer pay for a TV licence or watch anything live.”

Others defended the corporation with one Twitter user, Pavashotty, tweeting: “I’m actually quite happy to have both opinions portrayed on the BBC. [It] should never be a issue. Or do you only like channels that refuse to criticise the government?”

Media regulator OfCom requires the BBC to be impartial in its output and the corporation has pledged not to show political bias.

Meanwhile, Mr Davie told members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that Laura Kuenssberg conducted herself in an exemplary fashion during her new politics show, where comedian Joe Lycett appeared to sarcastically praise the new Prime Minister Liz Truss.

The first episode of Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg made headlines after the stand-up quipped during the programme he was “very right-wing” and he felt “reassured” following Ms Truss’ live interview in the studio.

Mr Davie said he did not think having Mr Lycett booked for the show displayed BBC bias in the slightest as he felt the audience saw it for what it was.

He said: “We can debate exactly what you debated about whether it was the right booking, but what I will say is Laura conducted herself, as the BBC host, I thought, in an exemplary fashion in a slightly difficult situation. We move on.”

Mr Davie added: he didn’t think it displayed BBC bias in the slightest and the audience saw it for what it was, later describing it as bemusing.

On the impartiality of the BBC’s content as a whole, Mr Davie said: “We do have hundreds of thousands of hours of output… and overall, I think we are delivering well. I do think that and it’s important that we’re proportional about this.”

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A committee member also spoke about how Mr Lineker, one of the BBC’s highest earners, has on occasion voiced his opinion on political matters on social media.

Mr Davie said he has had discussions with the sports pundit over the years about him following BBC impartiality guidelines and felt he has made a “massive improvement to where he was a few years ago”.

He said: “I’m very supportive of Gary. I think he’s a brilliant presenter and I think it is work in progress in terms of where he draws the line, but we’ve had a good conversation. I think he understands the guidelines.”

In 2020, new guidelines were set out, alongside training, aiming to “ensure the highest possible standards of impartiality” among staff at the broadcaster as it clamped down on presenters’ use of social media.

The editorial guidelines state nothing should appear on staff members’ social media accounts which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC.

They further add employees should not disclose publicly how they vote or express support for any political party and also say staff should not advocate any particular position on a matter of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or any other ‘controversial subject’.

BBC bosses also disagreed with comments made by Emily Maitlis after her recent criticism over how the corporation handled her Newsnight speech about Dominic Cummings.

She delivered the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival in August where she criticised the BBC’s response to the 2020 Newsnight episode during which she opened by saying Mr Cummings, then Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, had “broken the rules” with a lockdown trip to Durham, adding “the country can see that, and it’s shocked the Government cannot”.

In her Edinburgh lecture, Ms Maitlis said the BBC “sought to pacify” Number 10 by issuing a swift apology for her monologue.

But Mr Davie said while he thinks she is an “outstanding journalist”, he disagreed with her criticism of the BBC’s handling of the Cummings monologue.

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