Commentators, coaches, co-hosts and players continue to join a growing list of those boycotting a popular football show on the BBC in solidarity with Gary Lineker, who was suspended as the host over his criticism of the British government’s immigration policy.
Lineker, a former English football star, had said earlier this week that British home secretary Suella Braverman was using language similar to Nazi Germany to support plans to stop asylum seekers. After outrage by the far right and the controversy making it to the mainstream media and parliament, the BBC on Friday said that Lineker had been suspended from hosting Match of the Day for breaching impartiality guidelines.
Meanwhile, BBC’s former director general Greg Dyke said the broadcaster has undermined its own credibility as its decision will be viewed as having bowed to government pressure. “There is a long-established precedent in the BBC that is that if you’re an entertainment presenter or you’re a football presenter, then you are not bound by those same rules. The real problem of today is that the BBC has undermined its own credibility by doing this because it looks like – the perception out there – that the BBC has bowed to government pressure,” he told Radio 4’s Today show.
Lineker’s co-hosts, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, have announced that they would not be participating in Match of the Day, and the BBC said that the show would be broadcast without a presenter or pundits. Bristol Rovers, meanwhile, said their players would not be giving interviews to the BBC after the match.
The shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, said it is “chilling to see a great public broadcaster cowering to rightwing fanatics”. Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted, “The BBC’s cowardly decision to take Gary Lineker off air is an assault on free speech in the face of political pressure from Tory politicians. They should rethink.”
And the Guardian, this may not be the only instance of the BBC buckling under right-wing pressure.
The British media outlet said it has been told that the BBC has decided not to broadcast an episode of Sir David Attenborough’s flagship new series on British wildlife because of fears its themes of the destruction of nature would risk a backlash from Tory politicians and the rightwing press.
The episode is “understood to be a stark look at the losses of nature in the UK and what has caused the declines. It is also understood to include some examples of rewilding, a concept that has been controversial in some rightwing circles,” the report stated.
“Senior sources at the BBC told the Guardian that the decision not to show the sixth episode was made to fend off potential critique from the political right. This week the Telegraph newspaper the BBC for creating the series and for taking funding from “two charities previously criticised for their political lobbying” – the WWF and RSPB.”
In an opinion piece based on this report, Geofrrey Lean, a prominent environment journalist, wrote, “This is not the first time that the has effectively silenced its greatest presenter who – after years of criticism for downplaying the threats to the world’s environment – has over the past decade become one the most outspoken and influential advocates of action to combat the climate crisis and preserve biodiversity. But it is likely to provoke the most outrage.”
“David Attenborough was long condemned by environmentalists for failing to draw attention to the growing environmental crisis. In part, this was down to his own past reluctance: “I leave advocacy to [David] Bellamy,” he told me during one of our conversations on the issue. But the BBC has also been culpable, partly out of political cowardice, and partly out of greed: a few years back, it feared that if Attenborough mentioned climate change, for example, that would, especially in the US.”
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