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New BBC boss threatens to suspend Twitter accounts of employees such as Gary Lineker for impartiality breaches

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read

Watch: New BBC boss threatens to suspend employees' Twitter accounts

  • Tim Davie says BBC will suspend employees’ Twitter accounts for impartiality breaches

  • This includes Gary Lineker, who has been vocal critic of government and Brexit

  • New BBC boss says: “We will be able to take people off Twitter. I know people want to see hard action on this”

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

The new BBC boss has threatened to suspend the Twitter accounts of high-profile employees such as Gary Lineker for impartiality breaches.

Director general Tim Davie told MPs new social media guidelines will mean the BBC “will be able to take people off Twitter”.

Appearing at the digital, culture, media and sport committee on Tuesday, Davie was pointedly asked about a “well-known sports presenter” who once tweeted about the government’s coronavirus policy: “Think they’re hoping everyone gets p***** so they forget about their leadership... or lack of.”

That was posted by Match of the Day presenter Lineker – the BBC’s highest-paid employee who recently took a £400,000 pay cut – on 4 July.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14:  Gary Lineker attends the World Premiere of 'Make Us Dream' at The Curzon Soho on November 14, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
The new BBC boss has threatened to suspend the Twitter accounts of employees such as Gary Linker. (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Committee chair Julian Knight asked Davie if this was “appropriate” and whether it would be a disciplinary matter under his “brave new world”.

Davie said it would, and that this would include taking employees off Twitter.

He said: “We are going to be publishing in the next few weeks… clear social media guidelines. They will cover both news and current affairs, and beyond news and current affairs.

Tim Davie speaks to MPs at the digital, culture, media and sport committee on Tuesday. (Parliamentlive.tv)
Tim Davie speaks to MPs at the digital, culture, media and sport committee on Tuesday. (Parliamentlive.tv)

“We will have, within those guidelines, the enforcement policies will be very clear.

“We will be able to take disciplinary action. We will be able to take people off Twitter. I know people want to see hard action on this.”

He added: “If they want to work for the BBC, I can ask people, you would suspend their Twitter account, absolutely.”

In recent times, Lineker has been known for his criticism of the government and Brexit on Twitter, on which he has more than 7.5m followers.

Ex-footballer Lineker, who after his pay cut now earns £1.35m a year, has previously dismissed suggestions he has been asked to tweet more carefully.

Addressing the issue, Davie said: “I would note that Gary Lineker has actually been very clear in his statements recently, saying ‘I understand I have responsibilities when working at the BBC’.

SHREWSBURY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: BBC presenter Gary Lineker reacts during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Shrewsbury Town and Liverpool at New Meadow on January 26, 2020 in Shrewsbury, England. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)
Gary Lineker during his Match of the Day presenting duties earlier this year. (Getty Images)

“Those responsibilities will be clearly laid out.

“I am now the director general so I am running the show, and in my view party political statements are not the right thing for people to be making if they are part of an impartial news organisation.”

Davie took over the top job at the beginning of the month with a warning it is time to “renew” the corporation’s commitment to impartiality: a constant source of controversy surrounding the BBC.