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BBC chief refuses to quit despite chaos sparked by Lineker removal

Britain’s finance minister on Sunday said “people’s confidence” in the BBC needed to be restored as the broadcaster’s boss vowed not to quit amid the chaos surrounding Gary Lineker’s removal as Match of the Day host.

Lineker was forced to “step back” from his duties presenting the flagship Premier League highlights show after accusing the UK government of using Nazi-era rhetoric in announcing its policy to tackle illegal immigration.

The BBC said on Friday that Lineker, England’s fourth highest goalscorer of all-time, had breached guidelines on impartiality and the corporation would seek “an agreed and clear position on his use of social media” before an on-screen return.

Former BBC chief Greg Dyke warned on Saturday that “it looks like – the perception out there – that the BBC has bowed to government pressure,” deepening an ongoing row over impartiality at the broadcaster.

Finance minister Jeremy Hunt told Sky News on Sunday that he “profoundly” disagreed with Lineker’s remarks, but that the decision was one for the BBC and its director general Tim Davie. 

“The reason that it is a great national institution that we all treasure so much, is because it is respected for impartiality,” he said. 

“We need to make sure that what comes out of this is that people’s confidence in the impartiality of the BBC is restored.”

Lineker’s critics claim the public-funded broadcaster has allowed him to use the platform afforded him as the face of its much-loved football show to influence contentious political issues.

But his backers accuse the broadcaster of taking their cues from Conservative politicians, pointing out that current BBC chairman Richard Sharp facilitated a loan guarantee for former prime minister Boris Johnson while applying for the job.

– Prime Minister reacts –

The decision to remove Lineker caused chaos to scheduled sports programming across the BBC’s television and radio output.

Former England players Ian Wright and Alan Shearer were among the pundits who refused to take up their usual roles on Match of the Day, followed by the programme’s commentators.

As a result, the longest-running football television programme in the world was aired for the first time without a presenter, pundits or even commentary in a shortened 20-minute highlights package of six matches from the English top-flight.

Despite the disrupted format, BBC entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba tweeted Sunday that viewing figures were up nearly half a million on last week’s audience, with 2.58 million people tuning in.

Weekend preview show Football Focus and results programme Final Score were also pulled from the schedule, as was Sunday’s round-up show Match of the Day 2, while BBC Radio 5Live’s coverage was disrupted.

When asked if he should resign over the Lineker issue, Davie replied: “Absolutely not.”

“I think that my job is to serve licence-fee payers and deliver a BBC that is really focused on world-class impartial landmark…

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