The Match of the Day presenter takes to Twitter regularly to share views with his 8.5million followers on subjects including climate change, refugees and the war in Ukraine. Regulator OfCom requires the BBC to be impartial in its output. The corporation has pledged not to show political bias.
BBC boss Tim Davie told staff when he started at the corporation: “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.”
Mr Lineker was rebuked on Twitter for tweeting about political issues by BBC journalist Neil Henderson.
In a now deleted tweet, Mr Henderson, a UK and foreign news editor, challenged the presenter over why he has the freedom to share his opinions on a range of subjects.
He tweeted: “Do you have the freedom to tweet about this sort of thing because you have a different contract to mine? Because if so I’d be sacked.
However, fellow Twitter user Glen Arthur Ezekiel Meskell-Brocken commented: “Come on guys this isn’t helping anything. Neil prides himself, always has done, on being impartial, where and how he’s employed means he has to.
“Gary, how and where he’s employed, allows him to not be. It’s muddy water of course. But fighting about it ends up with no winner.”
The row comes after former BBC radio DJ Liz Kershaw asked how Mr Lineker is allowed to voice his opinions on political subjects in public.
She told GB News: “With the Gary Lineker thing, it’s always been a bugbear for anyone who works there, including me, that he is allowed to voice his opinions in public, and especially on Twitter, on very political subjects.
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“And yet everyone else gets very sinister calls from management or emails or a wrap on the knuckles for doing the same.
“I’d get a phone call and it would say, ‘Remove that tweet’ and I’d say. ‘I’ll stop tweeting when you stop Gary Lineker doing it’. One law for everybody.
“How does Gary Lineker get away with it?”
Mr Lineker told the BBC’s The Media Show in September social media had provided a platform to air his views in the off chance it might make a difference to people.
He insisted the rules around impartiality apply to BBC employees in news and current affairs, adding: “I try to be sensible. I’ve never had any phone calls [from the BBC].
“[Tim Davie] has never called me up and said you can’t talk about that or you can’t tweet about this. I don’t think they can do that anyway. I’m my own person.”
He also explained that he considers himself a free-lancer.
This week saw Emily Maitlis say the BBC “sought to pacify” Number 10 by issuing a swift apology for her Newsnight monologue about Dominic Cummings.
She told an audience at the annual MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival the programme’s introduction received “way more attention than in truth it ever deserved”.
Ms Maitlis opened the episode by saying Mr Cummings, then Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, had “broken the rules” with a lockdown trip to Durham and “the country can see that, and it’s shocked the Government cannot”.
The BBC received more than 20,000 complaints and ruled impartiality rules had been breached.
A spokesperson for the corporation said: “The BBC places the highest value on due impartiality and accuracy and we apply these principles to our reporting on all issues. As we have made clear previously in relation to Newsnight we did not take action as a result of any pressure from Number 10 or Government and to suggest otherwise is wrong.
“The BBC found the programme breached its editorial standards and that decision still stands.”