The BBC comms department must be reeling this morning after a nightmare 48 hours which saw it firefighting battles on several fronts.
The Corporation’s primetime Saturday night football show Match of the Day will air this weekend without any host, pundits or commentators, after its main presenter Gary Lineker – the BBC’s highest earner on a £1.35million ($1.62m) salary – was taken off air for sending controversial tweets about the government’s migration policy.
After a catalogue of pundits and commentators stood down in solidarity with Lineker, and other presenters said they wouldn’t be appearing, the BBC decided to air the show with just highlights packages. But the row rumbles on, with the spectacle of BBC News journalists door-stepping the Director-General for comments about another BBC presenter.
On the same day, the BBC issued an apology following an interview on one of its flagship radio news shows. On March 3, former culture secretary Nadine Dorries appeared on The World At One when she was asked about last year’s probe into illegal parties during lockdown held at Downing Street, home of the prime minister.
Radio 4 allowed her to claim that the report’s chief investigator, Sue Gray, is pals with Keir Starmer and the “partygate” probe is discredited by “deep political motivations.” Yesterday, the show issued a statement saying there was no evidence for this, and “apologised for its shortcomings on this occasion.”
Meanwhile,, Fiona Bruce, the presenter of current affairs TV show Question Time – in which public figures answer questions posed by a live studio audience – was taken to task after she commented on the father of ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson has proposed his father Stanley be honoured with a knighthood for his environmental work over the years, but one of the panel called him “a wife beater” following a confirmed incident when Stanley Johnson broke his first wife’s nose.
Bruce told the audience: “Stanley Johnson’s wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and she had ended up in hospital as a result. Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen, it was a one off.”
With many critics, charities and lobbying groups joining those on social media slamming Bruce’s words, the BBC was moved to issue a statement, saying:
“Domestic abuse is abhorrent and we would never wish to suggest otherwise. When serious allegations are made on air against people or organisations, it is the job of BBC presenters to ensure that the context of those allegations and any right of reply from the person or organisation is given to the audience and this is what Fiona Bruce was doing last night.”
Oh, and… the Corporation’s most beloved presenter Sir David Attenborough, has a new nature show Our Wild Isles making its debut this weekend, something which should be safe cause for fanfare, but an additional episode to the series is only being streamed, not broadcast on live TV.
The Guardian claimed, apparently inaccurately, that this decision was due to fears of a “rightwing backlash” over the content with its strong eco-awareness message. However, the BBC issued a statement, explaining:
“This is totally inaccurate, there is no ‘6th episode’. Wild Isles is – and always was – a 5 part series. We acquired a separate film for iPlayer from the RSPB, WWF and Silverback Films about people working to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the British Isles.”
One small victory for the BBC, then, but its comms teams members could be forgiven for spending the weekend lying in a darkened room…
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