Friday 10 March 2023

Gary Lineker Vs the BBC

From the Queen Mother of football to woke Anti-Christ, the weekly hate has settled on Gary Lineker for not playing by the establishment's rules. Tory politicians, right wing commentators, and the Conservative press have called for his head for likening the government's anti-immigration bill to the rhetoric you might expect from 1930's Germany. When people trafficked to the UK via small boats in the Channel are set to be criminalised, the comparison is neither crass nor far-fetched. In true fashion, the BBC relented to the pressure and said Lineker had "stepped back" from Match of the Day. He denied any such thing, and his co-presenters - Ian Wright and Alan Shearer - announced they would be walking out in solidarity. Immediately, in its clumsy stupidity the BBC's Tory management have created a cause celebre and shone a spotlight on its much vaunted "impartiality".

We don't need to recall the most egregious examples. They're readily found on your social media outlet of choice. But they all follow a distinct pattern. Right wing "celebrities" and "stars", like Alan Sugar and Andrew Neil, copped nothing but acquiescence from the BBC when they were letting the world know their very important opinions. Even Lineker himself got a pass when, in April 2017, he tweeted "bin Corbyn". It's almost as if impartiality and balance at the BBC was and is a complete fiction, as long as it's tilted toward the right.

There is something different about the Lineker sacking. With sport stars voicing support, celebs having a go, and prominent ex-BBC staff putting the boot in, it seems we're at something of a moment. Even Labour reversed the mid-week "it's a matter for the BBC" line and has said the "BBC’s cowardly decision to take Lineker off air is an assault on free speech in face of political pressure. Tory politicians lobbying to get people sacked for disagreeing w govt policies should be laughed at, not pandered to. BBC should rethink decision”.

As argued here many times, the BBC has always been a defender and a champion of establishment politics. When the Labour left were a threat, it was only too happy to join in the charge by running anti-Corbyn material morning, noon, and night. Meanwhile, it indulged the populist turn in right wing politics. It not just enabled the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, but has happily promoted back bench Tory horrors these last 13 years. Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg didn't get their prominence because of loyalty to Johnson, it was because the BBC boosted and authenticated them. But more than this, the BBC has accepted whatever rubbish the right wing press define as news as the news. Consider the moment we're in. Another energy price hike due, despite the falling wholesale cost of gas, the NHS on its knees, the cost of living making life a misery everywhere, and what we get are the BBC bulletins faithfully parroting Tory crock about refugees crossing the English Channel.

How has this happened? The merry-go-round between senior BBC staff and the Tory party's associates do play a role. The most obvious being the BBC's Chair, Richard Sharp, as a Tory donor and facilitator of Johnson's spendthrift lifestyle. These two happenstances and his appointment to the position being entirely coincidental, of course. And we have to mention John McAndrew, head of programming at the ever-so-successful GB News, migrating over to the BBC as Director of News. Never has the top of the BBC been so nakedly partisan. But this is rather effect than cause, a culmination. One of the ironies is the men leading the counter-charge against Lineker's effective sacking is Alastair Campbell, whose attacks on the BBC as Tony Blair's top spinner put the corporation on its current slavish trajectory.

Readers with long memories will recall how Downing Street went to war against the BBC in 2003 after Andrew Gilligan alleged the then government had "sexed up" its dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which subsequently created quite a stir. After threats, the BBC let Gilligan go and prostrated itself before Blair and Campbell. Never as fearless nor as independent as advertised, the BBC did surrender a degree of editorial independence and started working towards the government. I.e. Ensuring its reporting never crossed the line to challenge official narratives directly, and merely repeating critical stories when they had first got a proper trailing in the Tory press. It was a period of accommodation to those who held all the power, bringing its editorial practices in line with the cosy relationships its politics journalists had long forged with New Labour figures. When the Tories came to office, what was now customary continued. Ingratiating itself to the new government, taking its lead from the right wing press, and happily doing the spade work of framing their austerity politics in commonsensical/there is no alternative terms is what the BBC then went and did. With the right in government, they accommodated and, indeed, went out its way to appease the Tories lest they chop down the licence fee or privatise/sell off bits of the corporation. Which the Tories did anyway. Hence the easy ride given to right wing populism, and the rough treatment doled out to Corbyn and the left.

Given the BBC's capture by a Tory cabal, the Lineker nonsense and its refusal to screen a David Attenborough documentary because of his sharply critical remarks demonstrates how far this accommodation to those with power has gone, and out of step the BBC is with the changing political situation. Given his authoritarian character, it's unlikely a Keir Starmer government would stand for such an overtly Tory BBC. They would expect it to start working toward its priorities, and framing political issues in the way they, and not the dying right wing press, would frame them. In this the BBC is an outlier, and why there is an establishment-based push back. The problem is the BBC is not being run by people with its institutional interests at heart, and they care nothing for its health in the time before the next election, let alone afterwards.

Image Credit


Blissex said...

«Tory politicians, right wing commentators, and the Conservative press have called for his head for likening the government's anti-immigration bill to the rhetoric you might expect from 1930's Germany. When people trafficked to the UK via small boats in the Channel are set to be criminalised»

In effect and perhaps not intentionally Lineker is helping the “Tory politicians, right wing commentators, and the Conservative press” plus Starmer and New New Labour to keep the narrative closely focused on the the smallish issue of Channel crossers rather than on the enormous increase in total immigration (almost entirely from the third world) that has happened since the 2016 referendum.

Ken said...

I am slightly surprised that, as per your academic specialism, you haven’t mentioned the “Bad News” series from the Glasgow University Media Group. The introduction of the domestic video recorder allowed for a year’s TV news to be recorded and analysed.
For younger readers you might need to be reminded that there was a smaller number of channels. The BBC reacted as if it had touched a live wire. In a recorded “debate” between Greg Philo, the lead researcher, and the BBC editors and journalists, you kept hearing that they had a duty towards “impartiality”, so that was that. Incidentally, I read something of his where he pretty much pointed the finger at academic sociology for retreating into theory as a way of avoiding the hard work of exposing the powerful, and the consequences of doing so.
I watched a similar presentation from a researcher who had got hold of the rushes from the BBC at Orgreave. There followed a bunch of shots with no context, no voice over, no number, no time, no slate with any information, and yet, by the 6 o’clock news it had all been edited to support the police view.
A more contemporary example would be the pro-unionist coverage of the Scottish independence referendum, again examined by Scottish researchers. Is that a coincidence? If you want to know who the MSM support in the SNP leadership election, look for the one least likely to upset the applecart. I’ve seen a lot of patronising and ignorant coverage of this in England, mainly because the commentators don’t seem to understand that the main job of the SNP is to gain independence, not anything else.
BTW, my use of the “I am slightly surprised” is a sarcastic nod towards the “discourse” in academic debates.

Zoltan Jorovic said...

@blissex "See this glass. It's half empty. Not just half empty, but on its way to being completely empty. If we look ahead, we can see nothing but an empty glass."

"So, @Bliss, what should we do?"

"We should lament the drinking of that first half, and attack those who even think of drinking the rest. Even the first sip was selling out to the forces of injustice. It could only end one way."

"But, @Bliss, isn't that what a glass with a drink in it is for?"

"Nonsense. The purpose of the glass is to represent the aspirations of the working class, and how they can never be fulfilled because in trying to drink from the glass, they will empty it."

"But, what if we refill it?"

"Then you are joining in the exploitation of working people and setting up a illusory future that can never be delivered."

"Or, we could just enjoy the rest of the drink that Mr Lineker bought for us?"

"To curry favour with the oppressors and misdirect our anger away from the true issue of impending emptiness."

He turns to see how his final comment has impressed the rest of the public bar to find he is alone. He shrugs, knocks over the glass and watches, grimly satisfied as the liquid drips from the table onto the floor. The glass was empty! Exactly as he had predicted. He smiles to himself as he leaves the now empty pub. Emptiness is the inevitable end of the glass struggle, he thinks.

Ken said...

On the other hand, Jonathan Pie has posted his thoughts on YouTube.
There is a link, but it doesn’t work, but is labelled Lineker V Braverman

Dipper said...

The issue is that the BBC is the state broadcaster which we are in effect forced to pay for under threat of imprisonment. If Gary Lineker worked for an independent broadcaster nobody would mind him voicing his ridiculous and historical opinions.