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24 March 2023

Former Today editor backs BBC boss over Lineker treatment

Jamie Angus is the first to raise his head above the parapet for Tim Davie – but thinks many BBC journalists agree with him.

By The Chatterer

Jamie Angus, a former BBC News bigwig, has lifted his head above the parapet to declare that Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, was right to suspend Gary Lineker from Match of the Day earlier this month. And he thinks many of the BBC’s journalists quietly agree with him.

Asked about the Lineker affair on Roger Bolton’s Beeb Watch podcast, Angus said: “I, perhaps unfashionably on Twitter, take the view that Tim was right to ask Gary Lineker to come off air.” This may constitute some comfort to Davie, who faced widespread anger (and a presenter boycott) for his decision to suspend Lineker before performing a swift U-turn days later.

Angus, a former Today programme editor and World Service boss who last year left SW1 for a senior role at Saudi state broadcaster Al Arabiya, said he felt Lineker had broken impartiality rules with a tweet that likened the government’s language around asylum seekers to “Germany in the 30s”. 

“I further think that a lot of BBC staff, particularly in BBC News but across the BBC, probably felt the same,” said Angus, explaining that many journalists sacrifice their “own personal freedom” by withholding their personal opinions on social media.

“The BBC News staff are sticking to those rules very broadly,” he added. “And it is very difficult for them to see one of the BBC’s highest-paid stars, but more importantly someone who is most closely associated with the BBC in the public mind, driving a coach and horses through those standards.”

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Angus predicted as well that the Davie’s “uneasy truce” with Lineker (he was reinstated to the programme while the BBC undergoes a social media guidelines review) would not last. 

“I’m not at all convinced that the relationship with Gary Lineker is going to survive in the long term,” said Angus. “If you look at some of the things he’s tweeted even since this row, they seem pretty close to the line, if not over the line, to me. And I’m not quite sure how this is going to get resolved in the longer term.

“And it may be that if Gary, as he’s perfectly entitled to do, feels that in the longer term his freedom to tweet what he likes, about what he likes, whenever he likes is the most important thing to him, that may just not be compatible with continuing to work for the BBC.”

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