Gary Lineker appears to have breached the BBC’s social media guidelines by targeting Defence Secretary Grant Shapps in a tweet, says the potential future chairman of the Corporation.
Samir Shah told MPs he thought the social media post, and another which was directed at Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, ‘on the face of it’ breached impartiality guidelines.
Mr Shah, who is the Government’s choice to take over as head of the BBC, added that the former footballer turned broadcaster had not been ‘helpful’ by signing a letter calling for the Government to scrap its Rwanda scheme.
While he admitted the signing of the letter had not broken any of the BBC’s rules, Mr Shah believed the former footballer had breached guidelines at the ‘third opportunity’ with the post about the Tory minister and another about Mr Gullis.
Lineker, who is the Corporation’s highest-paid star, has been embroiled in a number of impartiality rows over his political comments on social media and often takes aim at the Conservative Government online.
A tweet by Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker appeared to breach BBC impartiality guidelines, the Corporation’s potential future chairman has said
Samir Shah told MPs he did not think it was ‘helpful’ that Lineker signed a letter calling for the Government to scrap the Rwanda Scheme
Gary Lineker ‘s social media post about Defence Secretary Grant Shapps appears to breach BBC guidelines, Mr Shah says
On October 11, the former England striker posted on X, formally known as Twitter, a collage photo of four different images of Mr Shapps, all captioned with a different name
Mr Shah said the BBC ‘needs to find a solution’ to arguments over impartiality as he called the ongoing row between Lineker and the corporation a ‘psychodrama’.
He said: ‘I don’t think it was very helpful either for Gary Lineker or the BBC or the cause he supports because it becomes a story about Gary Linker and the BBC.
‘As far as I’m aware, the signing of the letter did not breach those guidelines.
‘But the more recent tweet in which he identifies a politician does, on the face of it, seem to breach those guidelines.
‘I’m not sure how egregious it is but I imagine the BBC is looking into it and considering its response.’
Mr Shah added: ‘The initial two posts were considered, as far as I’m aware, that they did not breach but the last ones, that identified specifically two politicians, seems to me on the face of it to breach the guidelines.’
On December 11, the former England striker posted on X, previously known as Twitter, a collage photo of four different images of Mr Shapps, all captioned with a different name.
Lineker was hitting back after the Defence Secretary questioned whether the Match Of The Day host should express political views, claiming the 63-year-old ‘should stick to football and stop meddling in other matters’.
The presenter wrote alongside the photo: ‘A tad rich coming from someone who can’t even stick to one name. 4 chaps Shapps’.
Mr Shapps was previously accused of breaching the code of conduct for ministers and MPs by continuing to work as a marketer of get-rich-quick schemes under the pseudonym Michael Green after entering Parliament.
He has also been accused of using the pseudonyms Sebastian Fox and Corinne Stockheath.
Lineker has also hit out at Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis, who accused Lineker of breaching the BBC’s impartiality rules last week.
He wrote on social media: ‘Jonathan hasn’t read the new guidelines… or, should I say, had someone read them to him?’
On hearing Mr Shah’s announcement today, Mr Gullis posted on social media: ‘I appreciate the incoming Chairman’s views. I will await to see if any action will be taken by Tim Davie.’
A previous Twitter scandal involving the ex-striker led to the BBC strengthening social media guidelines for staff on issues of impartiality and civility.
Lineker was also among a group of celebrities to sign a letter calling for the government to scrap its Rwanda scheme and for political leaders to come up with a ‘fair new plan for refugees’.
Whilst he admitted the signing of the letter had not broken any of the BBC’s rules, Mr Shah believed the former footballer had breached guidelines at the ‘third opportunity’ with the post about the Tory minister
Grant Shapps questioned whether the Match Of The Day host should express political views, claiming the 63-year-old ‘should stick to football and stop meddling in other matters’.
Lineker has also hit out at Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis, who accused Lineker of breaching the BBC’s impartiality rules
Asked by Damian Green MP if he thought Lineker was giving the BBC ‘two fingers’ with his political posts, Mr Shah added: ‘Were I to be chair, first of all I would be thinking if we have the balance right between freedom of expression and the duty to be impartial.
‘It’s very clear when it comes to news and current affairs and when it’s not, but there is this grey area in which Mr Lineker sits and I share your frustration and I would invite the director-general and his team to find a solution.’
A BBC spokesperson said: ‘We aren’t going to comment on individuals or indeed individual tweets.
‘While the guidance does allow people to talk about issues that matter to them, it is also clear that individuals should be civil and not call into question anyone’s character. We discuss issues that arise with presenters as necessary.’
Lineker’s social media activity has seen him come under fire from critics for his attacks on government policy.
Earlier this year he sparked fury among Conservatives when he likened Suella Braverman’s migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany.
In a tweet he called Ms Braverman’s measures to stop the small boats ‘beyond awful’ and ‘an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s…’
Later, amid calls for him to be fired, the BBC star doubled down and said he would ‘continue to try and speak out’.
He also aimed more personal comments towards Ms Braverman, retweeting a post calling her ‘utterly devoid of sensibility’ after her exchange with a Holocaust survivor.
Last year Lineker spoke out in support of Just Stop Oil, saying that ‘history will look back very favourably on these people’ after protesters stormed the British Grand Prix.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman (pictured) was slammed by Lineker over her measures to stop small boats illegally reaching the UK
Lineker was embroiled in a row with a senior BBC journalist following his tweet about sewerage (pictured)
One person demanded Lineker quit after his comments in 2016 about his remarks over the refugee crisis. When someone said ‘you deserve it, hope you lose your job’, Lineker retweeted and defiantly said: ‘I won’t.’
Lineker appeared to show his support for Just Stop Oil protesters in July 2022 following their demonstration at Silverstone Grand Prix, which saw some activists storming the track
His outspoken views on topics such as Brexit have also drawn criticism from his own colleagues, with BBC cricket broadcaster Jonathan Agnew admonishing him for tweeting: ‘Extraordinary to watch us take our country back and rip it to shreds in the process’.
Mr Agnew told his colleague on Twitter: ‘Gary. You are the face of BBC Sport. Please observe BBC editorial guidelines and keep your political views, whatever they are and whatever the subject, to yourself. I’d be sacked if I followed your example. Thanks.’
Speaking today Mr Shah said if he was chairman of the BBC, he would invite the director-general Tim Davie to ‘interrogate quite forcibly’ if the social media guidelines were delivering what they intend to do.
He also said it was the Cooperation’s ‘duty to monitor’ the guidelines.
Mr Shah said: ‘I think it’s our duty to monitor and see how well guidelines are delivering their purpose.
‘I do think we need to find a solution to this because it doesn’t help anyone and it does damage the reputation of the BBC if we are constantly in this round, not just with this particular presenter or not.
‘The BBC’s reputation matters and this isn’t helpful and we do need to find a solution to it and if I were to be chair I would be keen to bring about a solution.’
During the hearing with the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Mr Shah was also asked if the BBC is having a ‘good war’ with regard to the Middle East conflict.
He replied: ‘The BBC journalists are working in very dangerous, very difficult circumstances.
‘We need to be cautious, sitting here in the safety of Britain, (asking) if they are having a good war or not. There have clearly been some mistakes – there is no question the BBC has acknowledged those.
‘Emotions are very high and people are taking very strong views either side and it put the BBC in a difficult position to get that right and be impartial.
‘There is enough criticism of the way the BBC has covered this war, if I were to be chair, to review it.
‘You didn’t mention it but I may as well mention it – the word ‘terrorist’ – we need to look again at that.’
The BBC currently does not describe Hamas as terrorists but attributes the word to others, such as the UK Government.
Mr Shah was also asked whether he thought it was appropriate that BBC board member Sir Robbie Gibb, a former press secretary for Theresa May, ‘lectured’ Newsnight staff on how to be more impartial.
Gary Lineker has repeatedly come under fire for his political views, which critics say breach BBC impartiality rules
Mr Shah said: ‘I do need to hear everyone else’s account of it, including Sir Robbie’s account of it.
‘I can’t, if I were chair, make a decision without actually gathering the facts and evidence yourself.’
Mr Shah added that it would not be appropriate for members of the BBC board to lobby the Culture Secretary over who should be the head of Ofcom.
It comes after Nadine Dorries alleged in her recent book that Sir Robbie lobbied her when she was in the post to appoint Lord Gilbert to the role.
Mr Shah said: ‘It would not be anything to do with them, Ofcom are the regulators.’
He said he would talk to interim chairwoman Dame Elan Closs Stephens about her investigation into the matter.
Mr Shah says applied for the role of BBC chairman after being encouraged to by political broadcaster and long-time friend Andrew Neil.
Shah’s predecessor, Richard Sharp, resigned from the role after failing to declare his connection to an £800,000 loan made to Boris Johnson.