The BBC’s impartiality has been questioned over its choice of platforming controversial pundits.
A top UK minister has become the latest critic of the BBC, taking aim at the corporation for its “problem with impartiality” just weeks after it was slammed for its reporting of the World Cup in Qatar.
UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Michelle Donelan said the network should be “conscious” after a controversial stunt that saw pundit Gary Lineker crack down on the Gulf state in a monologue that was aired in place of the opening ceremony in Qatar.
“There is a problem with impartiality and the BBC, they would say that they’ve recognised that themselves,” the 38-year-old British politician told The News Agents podcast, also addressing Lineker’s comments on US racism in light of its next hosting of the tournament.
“I’m thinking their most recent one was when he was over in Qatar, and he did an interview… and he referenced America and there were some very derogatory questionable comments.”
When one podcast host questioned Donelan about whether she thought Lineker had “crossed an impartiality line” with his remarks, she responded: “The general point wasn’t about this is one individual, this is the problem for the BBC, the problem of the BBC is Gary Lineker.”
“There’s been a few things that Gary Lineker has said over the years. And as a commentator on a public service broadcaster, you just have to be conscious of the comments that he makes.”
“That’s not the problem. What I was doing was using a range of examples to show that is highlighting a culture, which allows that kind of behaviour and accepts it. Which is what they need to deal with.”
The commentary Donelan was referring to was Lineker’s controversial and hypocritical monologue at the opening of the World Cup 2022 and criticism of the US.
The BBC deprived viewers from the opening ceremony of the World Cup to instead air a controversial monologue by the anchor.
“Ever since FIFA chose Qatar back in 2010, the smallest nation to host football’s greatest competition has faced some big questions,” Lineker said in his opening monologue to the BBC’s World Cup coverage.
“From accusations of corruption in the bidding process to the treatment of migrant workers who’ve built the stadiums where many lost their lives. Homosexuality is illegal here and women’s rights are also in the spotlight. Also, the decision to switch the tournament from summer to winter,” the Match of the Day host continued.
The BBC’s coverage of the tournament was quickly branded as “very racist”, and Lineker himself was accused of not communicating with the organisers before deciding to criticise them live on television, according to reports.
Lineker himself had previously justified the biggest football tournament being held in Russia, saying the United Kingdom should not “point fingers”.
His move during the opening day of the World Cup brought attention to his statement back in 2018 regarding Russia’s status as host of the FIFA World Cup, in which he said that the “corrupt” UK should not judge Russia for hosting the World Cup.
Hassan Al Thawadi, Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organising committee chief, slammed the BBC at the time for choosing to start its World Cup coverage with a monologue from Lineker.
A meeting between Al Thawadi and BBC commentators and broadcasters was attempted, according to emails obtained by Telegraph Sport, before the World Cup draw in April, reports revealed.
Lineker’s opening monologue for the BBC’s World Cup coverage had also prompted a tremendous amount of backlash online, spotlighting “white Western European hypocrisy.”
“Oppression and human rights abuses are acceptable so long as the people doing it look like us,” one such Twitter user said, referring to Lineker’s justification of a World Cup in Russia, where violence against the LGBT-Q community is rampant.
The United States
The football anchor also called the US an “extraordinarily racist country,” as the BBC found itself in another colossal back in December over political statements coming from the former England striker-turned-TV presenter.
In an interview with The New Agent, Lineker went on to renew his criticism of World Cup 2022 host Qatar before slamming the US.
“For me, it was always really more about the corruption side of it because, as I said previously, I think pretty much every country, including our own, has got issues,” he said. “And we’re off to America in four years’ time, with Canada and Mexico, but obviously America’s an extraordinarily racist country.”
He then went on to admit that the Qatar World Cup has “been a cracking tournament but that’s football; football is a wonderful sport”.
The US is set to jointly-host the FIFA World Cup in 2026, alongside Mexico and Canada, and has already received criticism for a range of issues at home, including lax gun control policies that has seen a worrisome number of school shootings.
Ongoing violence against people of colour, separation in families as a result of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) stringent laws, as well as widespread homelessness are also some topics being discussed.
BBC platforms racism
During the tournament in late November, the BBC was also questioned for allowing German football manager Jurgen Klinsmann to spout offensive remarks about the Iranian football team during a post-match analysis without interruption.
Klinsmann alleged Iran used dirty tactics to defeat Wales during the game in Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, insisting on four different accounts during the show that “that’s their culture.”
Critics said the host of BBC’s World Cup Qatar 2022, Gaby Logan allowed for such remarks by alluding Iran’s alleged use of sinister methods to gain victory over the Welsh team.
“This is not by coincidence, this is all purposefully. This is just part of their culture, that’s how they play it,” Klinsmann said.
“Working the ref, working the opp”, he said, “They make you lose your focus, they make you lose your concentration and what’s really important to you.”
The racist remarks did not stop there.
Another commentator on the panel questioned him about whether the game would have turned out differently, indirectly meaning a game in favour of Wales, “if they had a European referee,”
Klinsmann suggested there would be a “big difference with another referee”, stressing on the referee’s Guatemalan nationality being the major factor underpinning Wales team’s loss.
The segment caused outrage online.
“His baseless, racist waffling during the post match analysis towards Iran was disgraceful and the BBC should be ashamed of themselves for letting him rattle on unchallenged on live TV,” one user said.