Tim Davie, director general of the BBC, said he will not resign amid criticism over the removal of Gary Lineker as Match of the Day host for criticising the Rishi Sunak-led UK government over its plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.
“Everyone wants to calmly resolve the situation,” Davie told BBC in an interview.
Lineker was forced to “step back” from his duties presenting the flagship Premier League highlights show after accusing the UK government of using Nazi-era rhetoric in tackling illegal immigration.
Weekend preview show Football Focus and results programme Final Score were also pulled from the schedule, while BBC Radio 5Live’s coverage was disrupted, reported AFP.
When asked if he should resign over the crisis, Davie replied, “Absolutely not.”
“I think that my job is to serve licence-fee payers and deliver a BBC that is really focused on world-class impartial landmark output, and I look forward to us resolving this situation and looking forward to delivering that.”
“To be clear, success for me is Gary gets back on air and together we are giving to the audiences that world-class sports coverage which, as I say, I’m sorry we haven’t been able to deliver today,” Davie said.
The BBC has said Lineker, England’s fourth highest goalscorer of all-time, had breached guidelines on impartiality and the corporation would seek “an agreed and clear position on his use of social media” before an on-screen return.
What’s the Gary Lineker controversy?
The controversy was sparked by Lineker’s response to a video in which home secretary Suella Braverman unveiled plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.
Lineker, the BBC’s highest-paid star, tweeted, “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”
The Conservative government called Lineker’s Nazi comparison offensive and unacceptable, and some lawmakers said he should be fired.
In his statement, Sunak doubled down on the government’s plan to deter people from making dangerous journeys across the English Channel in small boats, saying it was the only way to “break this cycle of misery once and for all.”
On Friday, the BBC said Lineker would “step back” from “Match of the Day” until it had “an agreed and clear position on his use of social media”.
Lineker has yet to comment publicly, and on Saturday went to his hometown of Leicester to watch Leicester City play Chelsea in the Premier League. He was greeted with cheers from bystanders as he arrived for a match Chelsea won 3-1.
Rishi Sunak hopes for solution
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sunak said he hoped a stand-off between Lineker and the BBC can be “resolved in a timely manner”. The BBC’s decision caused chaos to scheduled sports programming across the BBC’s television and radio output.
“Gary Lineker was a great footballer and is a talented presenter. I hope that the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in a timely manner, but it is rightly a matter for them, not the Government,” Sunak said in a statement.
Saturday sports schedules for BBC Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were also amended.
(With inputs from AFP, Reuters)