The BBC has announced it will be conducting a social media review following the row that has ensued Gary Linker‘s controversial Twitter post criticizing the government’s illegal immigration law. John Hardie, the ex-editor-in-chief and chief executive of ITN productions, will lead the review of the company’s guidelines following the row with the Match of the Day presenter earlier this month. The BBC said the assessment would cover the online behavior of freelance presenters who work outside of news, current affairs and factual news programs.
Mr Lineker was briefly taken off the air following a post on the social media platform Twitter in which he said the government used language “not dissimilar to that used in Germany in the 1930s” when discussing migrants.
At the time, broadcasters said he had breached impartiality guidelines, but he was soon reinstated after protests from his fellow presenters.
He agreed to return after speaking with BBC director general Tim Davie, who announced the revision of the social guidelines.
He said the broadcaster’s impartiality charter has a commitment to free speech that could present a “difficult balancing act” that varies by audience and broadcast position.
The company said it “never” told the presenter, who works on a freelance basis despite being one of the highest-paid and best-loved figures, that he should be “a mind-free zone, or that he can’t have a look on things that matter to him.”
But it added that he should “steer clear of partisan issues or political controversies”.
Social media users took to Twitter to point out political views and criticism from other presenters, namely Lord Alan Sugar of The Apprentice.
The company promised to review the “grey areas” after Mr Davie said there was “potential confusion” over the BBC social media guidance.
Mr Hardie, who covered ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 news from 2009 to 2018, vowed to approach his review “without prejudice and with an open mind”.
He added that he was looking forward to “hearing from a wide variety of voices, both within and outside the BBCas the work progresses”.