Gary Lineker has denied claims BBC’s director-general Tim Davie ordered him to tone down his Tweets.
The former England striker turned Match Of The Day presenter, 59, was the highest paid star on the BBC before he took a £405,000 pay cut, it was revealed this week.
But he has denied ever being told to stop political tweeting by BBC chief Mr Davie – who is planning a radical shake-up of the national broadcaster, reported The Times.
In a debut speech yesterday Mr Davie said: ‘If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.’
Lineker said the BBC knows ‘that I tweet carefully’. He said: ‘I think the BBC trust me. I know where the land lies – you can’t hold the BBC in disrepute.’
Gary Lineker (left in 2019) has denied ever being told to stop political tweeting by BBC chief Tim Davie (right in 2016) – who is planning a radical shake-up of the national broadcaster
He added that he was freelance – meaning he was not held to the same level as staffers – and has never had ‘any issues’.
Lineker, a vocal Remain voter during 2016’s Brexit referendum, previously suggested he was relaxed by Mr Davie’s anti-bias drive, which called upon staff to rein in their social media.
He replied ‘nah’ in response to suggestions he should be ‘terrified’ of the clampdown.
As a freelance presenter Lineker has space to voice his opinions and has not been hamstrung by the BBC’s code of impartiality which restricts full-time employees.
He is among a number of stars told they will not be bound by the new social media rules, with it only expected to impact news and current affairs staff.
Lineker said the BBC knows ‘that I tweet carefully’. He said: ‘I think the BBC trust me. I know where the land lies – you can’t hold the BBC in disrepute’ (file image)
A BBC spokesman said: ‘[Lineker] is not involved in any news or political output for the BBC and, as such, any expression of his personal political views does not affect the BBC’s impartiality.’
Springwatch presenter Chris Packham is also set to escape any censure for his campaigning on social media.
Lineker has ploughed ahead with tweeting politicised content which has recently centred on his support for refugees.
On Thursday he revealed he would be applying to have a refugee live with him after being critical of the government’s migrant policy.
Migrant numbers has long been a thorny issue and ministers have been grappling with record numbers of Channel crossings this summer.
He also filmed a video in which he stressed the historic contributions of refugees to UK society – including fish and chips.
Lineker hailed Jewish refugees who fled persecution in Spain and Portugal during the 16th century for bringing fried fish to British shores.
The BBC Match of the Day presenter appeared in the video for the International Rescue Committee humanitarian aid group with the voice of comedian Jo Brand. Pictured, Lineker introduces the highlights of last Saturday’s Premier league match
Lineker (pictured on a video stressing the benefits of refugees) appeared to shrug off the new BBC director-general’s warning to employees to cut out political tweeting in an anti-bias dive
Shortly after, he retweeted a message which read: ‘It’s easier not to talk about this subject due to far-right Twitter’s constant attacks. But we must. Truth must outweigh perception & prejudice.’
The post came before Mr Davie’s hard-hitting speech, but Lineker later appeared to brush aside the new director-general’s warning.
Referencing a Telegraph column arguing Lineker should be ‘terrified of Tim Davie’s speech’, one journalist at the paper tweeted the ex-England star and said it ‘must be a double pants moment’ for him – to which Lineker replied ‘nah.’
Gary Lineker thanks refugees for ‘bringing fish and chips to Britain’ in bizarre video
Gary Lineker has narrated a new video to thank immigrants for bringing fish and chips to Britain as he welcomed a refugee to live in his £4million Surrey mansion.
The BBC Match of the Day presenter appeared in the video for the International Rescue Committee humanitarian aid group with the voice of comedian Jo Brand.
Also featuring as a voiceover in the clip which told the story of the famous British dish through animation was singer Yasmin Kadi, who fled Sierra Leone as a refugee.
The clip referred to the origins of fried fish as being brought to Britain by Jewish refugees who fled persecution in Spain and Portugal during the 16th century.
It also revealed that Huguenot French protestants fleeing religious persecution in the 17th century are believed to have brought chips to East London in the 17th century.
Posting the video on Twitter, he wrote: ‘Providing a new start to those who’ve fled their homes represents the best of Britain’s values.
‘As we know, refugees have always helped to keep our communities safe and make our society stronger. They even brought us fish and chips.’
The article, written by the Telegraph’s TV editor Chris Bennion, read: ‘How Lineker will react to being gagged remains to be seen – he has gainful employment elsewhere. And just how tough will Davie be on any stars who step out of line?
‘Reading between the lines, he’s suggesting he’d be willing to fire Lineker – and others who play up.’
Lineker is one of the BBC’s most recognisable faces and regularly tweets his opinions to his 7.6million followers.
They have involved outbursts attacking Brexit and criticising Donald Trump, who he this week said was ‘a few tins short of 57 varieties.’
In 2018, he became embroiled in a spat with BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew who suggested he had breached impartiality rules for tweeting: ‘Extraordinary to watch us take our country back and rip it to shreds in the process’ as Theresa May threatened to be ousted by her own MPs.
Yet he is revered by his colleagues as ‘the best in the business’ and has previously been assured his job is safe.
BBC Sport director Barbara Slater said in June: ‘Quite frankly, he is the best in the business and he is a fantastic asset to this organisation and long may he continue to present Match of the Day.’
However Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told MailOnline: ‘I think licence fee payers will be shocked the Gary Linkeker is the highest remunerated person employed by the BBC.
‘If Gary Lineker wants to get in to politics as he seems to aspire to do, then he’s perfectly entitled to do that.
‘But I can promise it doesn’t pay as well as working for the BBC. He’ll have to be prepared to take a huge pay cut.’
He also said Mr Davie’s online anti-bias drive does not go far enough to tackle the fundamental flaws blighting the Corporation.
The MP said: ‘I think that Tim Davie’s plan to prevent BBC employees expressing political opinions on social media is a step in the right direction, but that will never in itself remove the intrinsic and entrenched political bias in the organisation.’
He replied ‘nah’ in response to suggestions he should be ‘terrified’ of the clampdown
Pointless presenter Richard Osman jokes about Tim Davie’s social media crackdown
Mr Davie’s remarks followed controversies over impartiality, including Newsnight host Emily Maitlis sparking a furore with a monologue on the Dominic Cummings lockdown row.
The BBC later said the episode ‘did not meet our standards of due impartiality’.
BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty was also rebuked last year after commenting on remarks made by US President Donald Trump.
The BBC is expecting to receive a report into the use of social media by its staff, including presenters, written by former executive Richard Sambrook.
Mr Davie warned there was ‘no room for complacency’ over the broadcaster’s future, but insisted that it was ‘still relevant in millions of people’s lives’.