Will Gary Lineker save the BBC’s sacked musicians?

Will Gary Lineker save the BBC’s sacked musicians?


norman lebrecht

March 12, 2023

The BBC is writhing once more in a crisis of its own making, having summarily suspended its most popular presenter, the footballer Gary Lineker over an unrelated tweet. Most of Lineker’s colleagues walked away in sympathy. BBC sports overage is now paralysed.

The BBC’s head of orchestras, meanwhile, has entered discussions with the Musicians Union over his peremptory plan to sack the BBC Singers and replace 47 salaried orchestral players with freelancers. Simon Webb told the Feedback programme on Friday that the plan is, in effect, non-negotiable.

Both crises emanate from decisions by the hapless-looking director-general Tim Davie. Last November, Davie said the BBC orchestras will need to seek economies and earn part of their funding outside the BBC. He is now attempting to find a face-saving solution with Lineker while his own job appears increasingly insecure. The politically appointed chairman’s position is also tenuous.

If Lineker brings down Davie, will the cull of musicians still go ahead?

Short term, probably not. The upper echelons of the BBC will be preoccupied with finding new leadership and Webb’s own job will hang by a thread. The only way he can save it is by coming up with alternative funding for the BBC orchestras, as Davie demanded. Webb, in his short career, has shown little success at commercial ventures or fundraising. A self-generated solution is unlikely. The orchestras will be kicked into touch, for a while.

Count that as 1-0 to Lineker as we go in for half-time.

Elsewhere, Murdoch’s Sky is breaking open the bubbly.


  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    I can’t help wondering where are religious leaders in this debacle? They should be supporting Lineker and the refugees but not a word. Glad I’m an atheist.

    • Nonsense says:

      I hardly think it’s for religious leaders to comment on the tweets of a sports presenter. And anyway, aren’t most of them in the House of Lords? They’re very unlikely to criticise the current government either.

    • David Brent says:

      That’s right, because if you disagree with Lineker you must be Hitler and obviously God would have something to say about that.
      Or, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that. Can’t tell because Tiktok won’t tell me.

    • Tik Tovak says:

      They are too busy with in-fighting on whether or not to conduct gay weddings or not in case they upset churchgoers in Nimibia. Their own congregations dwindling at the farce of it all.

    • Elizabeth Owen says:

      My point is that no one seems to be taking the Government to task for their dreadful treatment of refugees. Religious leaders should surely be complaining and not leaving it to a tv pundit.

      • James Minch says:

        1. They’re not refugees. 2. How many of the young, Muslim men arriving on British shores have any sympathy for classical music?

        Quite a contrast with the Jews who came to Britain in the the thirties.

    • Peter Geall says:

      Archbishop of York spoke out today

    • Kevin says:

      The Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Dover both have spoken out against the bill – i.e. supported Lineker’s stance – as have Jewish religious leaders and those from the Baptist, Methodist and United Reform churches.

    • R Place says:

      There has been support, eg Stephen Cottrell

    • Matias says:

      Which “refugees” are you talking about? The genuine ones, or the others? The young men, or the women and girls who seem to be strangely absent much of the time.

      Or perhaps women and girls are rarely persecuted.

  • Robin Smith says:

    Murdoch’s Sky? I thought he’d sold SkySports some time ago.

    • Alan says:

      It’s easy to imagine a positive for the 92 year old in all this. Forced to sell off a few bits because of all the phone hacking, Murdoch hasn’t exactly been left on his uppers. Away from sports, he bought the Artsworld channel, a good product he turned into Sky Arts- thus making the arts strands of the Beeb look precarious, especially cash strapped BBC Four TV and the recently embattled Six Music.

  • Christopher Storey says:

    Very interesting that last night’s MOTD was watched by 25% more people than the previous Saturday’s programme. The obvious solution is to be rid of the garrulous Lineker once and for all and to apply the funds to the employment of the BBC Singers

    • Johnny Morris says:

      Lol…I don’t think those viewing figures were for the noble reasons you ascribe. People watched for the sheer stupid hilarity of a 20 minute collage of context-less, crowd roaring pointlessness.
      Keep clutching at those straws though, and see you at Tim, Richard… and Simon’s farewell bash

    • Peter Geall says:

      Many for the novelty value I’d suggest. I almost did so myself, despite not following professional football. That said I’d love there to be much less punditry on Wimbledon coverage

    • Kevin says:

      A lot of those watching will have done so from pure curiosity or schadenfreude. And the figures don’t say how long people stayed tuned for.

  • Glynne Williams says:

    I do hope you’re right, Norman! Anyone who hasn’t signed the petition, please do so. The impoverishment of our national life, not least its expression in the wonderful BBC Singers and the BBC orchestras, is proceeding apace. Looking back in future years and lamenting their loss is neither use nor ornament.

    • Ñame says:

      Look I hate to break it to you, but petitions do absolutely nothing when the opposing argument is a balance sheet line that says “this is expensive, cut it.” The best thing to do in the face of it would be if all artists associated with bbc proms would collectively pull their engagements, leaving the BBC’s biggest source of music revenue dangling until they reinstate the singers and the 20% of salaried employees. Petitions and strongly worded letters only work if you assume that Webb/Davie/Moore have feelings, which I can assure you they don’t.

  • Vado says:

    Maybe the GBP 1.34m a year saved by the BBC with the sacking Gary Liniker could be redirected to the Arts.

  • Norabide Guziak says:

    Champagne socialist Lineker comparing the UK government to Nazis on social media is, presumably OK despite illegal immigration being the number one concern of most normal-thinking Britons. Still, MSM tells us that ‘over half the UK population agrees’ with the presenter. Really? They certainly didn’t ask anyone I know. they probably didn’t ask anyone outside Broadcasting House. Also note how the only photos which have appeared on said newspaper websites are those in support of what he said. Utterly delusional.

    • Dave says:

      Illegal immigration “the number one concern of most normal-thinking Britons”?! I and many of my friends need to see a psychiatrist then.

      I wonder who’s utterly delusional here.

  • Peter Geall says:

    Wouldn’t that be marvellous!

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    Greatly as I would like to think so, the Lineker row given his pay and viewership influence will surely hav near to zero effect on any plans affecting classical music professionals. Under attack and defunding by a BBC-hostile government, and terrified of any conceivable association with elitism and absence of diversity, neither the BBC Singers or any of its orchestras hold much in the way of influence or clout outside a very small industry, however important and worthy that may be. The fact that they can contemplate replacing 20% of musicians with freelancers (conductors hate rotation and changing players) or consider merging the classical BBC SO with the light music BBC CO and maintain premium standards of quality for either is laughable.

    • Ñame says:

      It’s a long game plan. Make cuts to reduce its efficiency, then complain about it suddenly becoming a waste of money and get the public on board with its eventual permanent dissolution. Same goes for the TFL, the NHS, Royal Mail, etc

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    To alter a quote from Britten’s Opera, Peter Grimes, the Tory Broadcasting Corporation is at it’s exercise! Auntie has well and truly soiled her knickers again. The hypocrisy of their behaviour is clear to see regarding Gary Lineker’s tweet and the planned cuts to the BBC Singers and orchestras are savage and unforgivable.
    The wokist Beeb are a disgrace and its Director-General, as well as any other employee that has an issue with the truth being told, should have a look at the quote from George Orwell near to the statue of said author outside the London BBC HQ in London before they enter for work:
    ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’.

    • Dave says:

      Oh, if only you’d resisted the temptation to throw ‘wokist’ in there… I agree with everything else you’ve written here.

  • Patrick says:

    Please explain why in the photo he is standing in only his boxer shorts? American here who need enlightenment.

    • SingingReindeer says:

      He vowed to present in his underwear if Leicester City ever won the Premiership – which they did. Perhaps it could serve as an inspiration for last night of the proms if the BBC don’t come to their senses.

    • Karen says:

      Gary in his pants brings in the punters Pat, like a Tom Jones show!

  • Des says:

    Gary will get a better offer from Sky, BBC is not fit for purpose in 2023, he is not a direct employee.

  • Doc Martin says:

    I think the answer to this is that they should put on that music that makes Father Hackett stand up!


  • Des says:

    This is a metaphor for what has happened to the BBC in 2023. Pants. Or is it a Panto folks?

  • Des says:

    Ironically more women in GB would rather see Gary wearing his pants than watch a classical concert on TV. It is the dire times we are living in folks.

  • Steptoe says:

    I think the BBC has finally reached its Horse apple stage folks. A once great respected public broadcaster has lost its focus and is no longer fit for purpose.

    At least Horse apples keep yer Roses in bloom!