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The BBC is reviewing its social media guidance for freelancers after securing Gary Lineker’s return following a brief suspension over the Match of the Day presenter’s social media messaging.

The corporation is to bring in an independent expert to cast an eye over its existing guidance and director-general Tim Davie said it will have “a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs”.

Until that expert is appointed, existing guidance will remain in place.

The BBC faced some backlash after suspending Lineker for a tweet comparing the language of the government’s immigration policy with ‘Germany in the 1930s’ – despite the presenter’s role falling outside of news and current affairs. It is thought the specific allusion to Nazis was a sticking point in this instance.

After fellow sports presenters and crew stood in solidarity with Lineker, the BBC curtailed much of its football output over the weekend, with Football Focus pulled and MoTD reduced to a 20-minute highlights package.

Lineker will be back on the BBC next weekend in time for its FA Cup coverage.

“Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences,” said Davie in a statement. “I apologise for this. The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.

“Impartiality is important to the BBC. It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression.

“That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles.

“The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.”

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