ITN’s former chief executive and editor-in-chief John Hardie is to lead the independent review into the BBC’s social media guidance for freelancers following the impartiality row with Gary Lineker. 

The BBC said the review will start immediately and it is expected to be completed by the summer, with any changes to then be published. What’s all the fuss?  

Why is the BBC concerned about social media?  

The review has come about after Lineker was taken off air by the BBC for posting a tweet in which he said the language used by the Government to promote its asylum plans was not dissimilar to 1930s Germany. 

The issue spiraled out of the BBC’s control within hours, and was followed by a boycott by top on-air talent. Match Of The Day had to be aired without presenters and a slew of other programs were temporarily halted before the BBC backed down and let Lineker return.  

Who’s John Hardie? 

A broadcasting heavyweight. Mr Hardie acted for nearly a decade as chief executive and editor-in-chief of the media conglomerate ITN. 

He was also previously the executive vice president at Walt Disney and served as the chair of the Royal Television Society. 

What’s he going to be looking at? 

Mr Hardie will examine the BBC’s guidance covering “individual use of social media”, which was first published in October 2020, for those working as “on-air freelancers outside of news, current affairs and factual journalism”. 

The BBC has said the review will consider “how the BBC applies its guidance, considering the BBC’s charter commitments to both impartiality and freedom of expression”. 

READ MORE: Gary Lineker to return to Match Of The Day after BBC deal

It also stated any future guidance must be “easy to understand, practical and deliverable”. 

Mr Hardie said: “I am very pleased to have been asked to conduct this review. I approach the task with no preconceptions and an open mind. 

“I look forward to hearing from a wide range of voices, from both inside and outside the BBC, as the work progresses.” 


So, will we see more Tweets from Gary Lineker?  

BBC director-general Tim Davie said he recognised “grey areas” in the broadcaster’s social media guidance could cause “confusion, particularly for freelancers such as Lineker. 

The BBC has said that while the review is being undertaken, their existing social media guidance will remain in place. 

So that’s the issue settled, then?  

Not quite. Some have suggested freelancers should have to abide by impartiality rules, including the BBC’s former director-general Lord Birt who argued that he did not think it was “legitimate and right” that a BBC presenter like Lineker of “such an important programme should opine”. 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon says BBC's Gary Lineker decision 'indefensible'

Meanwhile, others have said the opposite with Greg Dyke, the BBC director-general between 2000 and 2004 and a former FA chairman, stating the precedent at the corporation is that “news and current affairs employees are expected to be impartial and not the rest”. 

“If you start applying the rules of news and current affairs to everybody who works for the BBC, where does it end?” he previously said.