BBC seeks to end crisis over neutrality

STORY: The BBC moved to resolve a crisis Monday (March 13) that put its neutrality under the microscope and prompted a near-mutiny over the suspension of one of its biggest star hosts.

Gary Lineker, a former England soccer captain, and now the British broadcaster's highest-paid presenter, was reinstated after a weekend of axed sports coverage.

At issue was Lineker's tweeted criticism of the UK government's immigration policy, likening the language used by politicians to that of 1930s Germany.

His removal from the publicly-funded BBC provoked criticism from staff, opposition politicians and commentators.

They accused the corporation, which has a mandate to be neutral, of bowing to government pressure.

Other sports hosts, pundits and commentators also refused to work, in solidarity with Lineker.

BBC director-general Tim Davie defended the suspension Monday, and said Lineker had now agreed to stick to current editorial guidelines until a new policy is formed.

"I think I've acted in the right way through this. It's always been difficult. As everyone's been saying on this affair, there's been no easy answers, it's been tough to get the balance right. But asking Gary Lineker to step aside, I think was appropriate at that moment."

62-year-old Lineker, a prolific striker who won the Golden Boot with England at the 1986 World Cup, is expected to return on Saturday for the flagship Premier League highlights show "Match Of The Day."

"However difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn't compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away," Lineker tweeted following his reinstatement.

Britain's interior minister Suella Braverman had described the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers to the UK on small boats as an "invasion."

The BBC crisis also renewed questions over the credibility of its chairman, Richard Sharp.

He failed to declare facilitating a loan for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson - shortly before he was appointed to the role by the government.