The BBC director general Tim Davie has said he will not resign over the Gary Lineker row – but has apologised for the disruption to sport’s programme today.
After the corporation announced Linker would be stepping back from hosting Match of the Day, presenters and pundits refused the present shows to support the former England striker.
Mr Davie was asked in a live interview by the BBC’s Nomia Iqbal if he would step down from his position – but he said he would not.
He said: “As a keen sports fan I know to miss programming is a real blow and I’m sorry about that. We are working very hard to resolve this situation and make sure we get output on air.”
“Everyone wants to calmly resolve the situation. Gary Lineker’s the best in the business – that’s not for debate.”
Mr Davie insisted the Gary Lineker row is about impartiality.
He said: “We made decisions and I made decisions based on a real passion about what the BBC is and it’s difficult – it’s this balance between free speech and impartiality.
“I honestly do not believe, despite a lot of the commentary, that this is about left or right – it’s about our ability, we’re fierce champions of democratic debate, free speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organisation.”
Miss Iqbal also quizzed Mr Davie over Lineker’s criticism of the Qatari government’s human rights policies ahead of last year’s World Cup – for which he was not disciplined.
Mr Davie denied the immigration policy tweet row was different because it criticised the UK government.
Mr Davie said: “This is nothing to do with the specifics of where a tweet is sent. It’s about getting involved in party political matters.”
Asked if he had buckled under pressure from the Government and right-wing press, Mr Davie said: “Absolutely not. We are absolutely driven by a passion for impartiality.”
Mr Davie also said that he does not feel this is about “left or right” politics, but about the corporation’s ability to balance free speech and impartiality, adding: “We’re fierce champions of democratic debate, free speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organisation.”
Asked if he would resign as “there are many people in the UK that simply do not trust you”, Mr Davie said: “Absolutely not.
“I think my job is to serve licence fee payers and deliver a BBC that is really focused on world-class, impartial landmark output – and I look forward to resolving this situation and looking forward to delivering that.”
The corporation’s flagship football programme Match of the Day will have no studio presentation or punditry commentary tonight.
It will only focus on highlights of match action without commentary, and last around 20 minutes.
It will comes after Football Focus was replaced by Bargain Hunt and The Repair Shop was aired instead of Final Score.
BBC Radio 5Live was also hit, with Mark Chapman not hosting sporting coverage on Saturday afternoon and no live football commentary.
Additional reporting by Press Association.