Gary Lineker will return to BBC programming this weekend while an independent review of the corporation’s social media guidance takes place.
In a statement announcing the return of the BBC’s highest-paid star, Director General Tim Davie apologised for the fallout over the last few days, calling it a “difficult period”.
“Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this.
“Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary,” he added. “I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend.”
Lineker was asked to step away from his presenting duties by the BBC last week after the football presenter tweeted out his criticism of the government’s new illegal migration bill, calling it an “immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.
In an initial statement on his return, Lineker said: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”
He continued: “After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.
“A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.
“We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you.”
The review of the BBC’s current social media guidance will be led by an independent expert, “with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs.”
According to Davie, the expert’s identity will be announced “shortly, ” and the BBC’s present social media guidance will remain in place while the review is carried out.
He also clarified: “Gary has agreed to abide by the guidance whilst the independent review takes place.”
Davie emphasised again how crucial impartiality is to both the BBC and its audience, highlighting the corporation’s “commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression”, also noting how difficult a balance this is to find.
“That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles. The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate,” Davie said.