European Federation of Journalists

UK: full support for Gary Lineker and BBC local staff preparing to strike

Credits: Susannah Ireland / AFP.

The Steering Committee of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) meeting in Brussels on Monday joined its British affiliate, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), in denouncing the suspension of commentator Gary Lineker. The EFJ also expressed its support to the BBC local staff preparing to strike on Wednesday and Thursday over cuts to local radio.

The BBC announced on Monday that Gary Lineker is to return to presenting sport on the BBC after he was taken off air for criticising on Twitter the language used by ministers when discussing the government’s asylum policy. “We note the apology from BBC Director Tim Davie, but strongly condemn this attack on the commentator’s freedom of speech,” said the EFJ President Maja Sever. “The management has bowed to government pressure by suspending Mr Lineker. Tim Davie must understand that the duty of impartiality is not the same as the duty of neutrality and that it is the duty of every citizen to denounce racist and discriminatory comments, especially if they come from the government”.

On Friday, following the BBC’s decision to force Gary Lineker to step down from fronting “Match of the Day”, NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Who is convinced that genuine concern for impartiality is the driving force here? It doesn’t wash – not least when the BBC’s chairman failed to declare his critical role in a £800,000 loan facility to the former Prime Minister, is backed to the hilt by this government, and is still resisting calls for his resignation weeks after an excoriating government select committee report called on him to consider his position and journalists across the BBC voted overwhelmingly to demand his immediate resignation.”

“As the BBC is plunged tonight into yet another crisis of its own making, it’s heartening to see solidarity in action on the part of fellow presenters – a timely warm-up of why collective action matters, ahead of the strike by NUJ members across England on Wednesday and Thursday who are fighting to preserve quality local news at our public service broadcaster,” she added.

The BBC has plans to reduce the amount of local content on local BBC radios. The changes would result in the loss of about 48 staff posts.

The EFJ Steering Committee calls on the BBC to recognise the damaging impact of these plans and engage fully with the NUJ, to reach a solution in the dispute over cuts to local radio.