Sports News

BBC star Gary Lineker takes pay cut as new boss doubles down on impartiality

LONDON (Reuters) - The BBC’s top earner Gary Lineker has agreed to use social media responsibly and taken a pay-cut as the British broadcaster’s new boss seeks to maintain trust in the body, whose publicly-funded model has been questioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Soccer Football - FA Cup - Quarter Final - Newcastle United v Manchester City - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - June 28, 2020 Former player and England legend Gary Lineker, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Owen Humphreys/Pool via REUTERS

New BBC Director-General Tim Davie told staff not to air political views on social media when he started the job earlier this month, and on Tuesday said new guidelines on social media would be published in the coming weeks.

Former England soccer player Lineker has attracted scrutiny from the broadcaster’s critics for both his high pay package and his outspoken political views on social media that often criticised the government.

Davie said Lineker understood his social media responsibilities in agreeing a new 5 year contract, which will see him take a 23% pay cut.

“Impartiality is the bedrock of the BBC. It’s utterly critical that looking forward people have total trust in the BBC. “When you join the BBC, you know, you leave your party politics at the door.”

Lineker was paid around 1.75 million pounds, the BBC’s annual report in the financial year to March 31 showed on Tuesday, its highest-paid personality.

Lineker’s paycut comes as the organisation’s bosses also seek to cut headcount among senior management.

The number of senior managers earning over 150,000 pounds rose to over 100, the BBC’s annual report showed, and BBC Chairman David Clementi said that the coronavirus crisis meant that the broadcaster had to save an extra 125 million pounds ($161.31 million).

The BBC’s operations and income has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but provided a boost to streaming on its online offering, BBC iPlayer.

The financial year ended on March 31, as the COVID-19 crisis began, but iPlayer had 1 billion requests in the first 7 weeks of lockdown, a 60% increase on the previous year, helped by the drama Normal People. It received 16.2 million requests in its first eight days - the biggest drama launch on BBC iPlayer ever.

The BBC said it had made continued progress on closing the gender pay gap, with a 55:45 split for men and women paid over 150,000 pounds, compared to a 75:25 gap in 2016/17. The gender pay gap is now 6.2%, from 6.7% last year.

($1 = 0.7749 pounds)

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Michael Holden and Alexandra Hudson