The BBC employs or uses many public figures in its programming who are outspoken on social media, not just Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker.

As the row over Lineker’s criticism of the Government’s immigration policy played out in recent days, it became evident that several other BBC presenters, panellists and celebrities that feature in the broadcasting corporation’s programming have shared their personal views on social media without being disciplined.

Lineker will return to Match Of The Day next weekend following crisis talks after he was forced to “step back” from his role after likening the Government’s Illegal Migration Bills to 1930s Germany.

Here i takes a look at other prominent figures featuring on BBC shows, who have shared less than impartial opinions on their social media accounts.

Chris Packham

TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham has been outspoken about his political views online in the past, particularly around how he believes the Government should be acting to protect wildlife.

When this has attracted criticism, the BBC complaints team said that audiences can “separate” the Springwatch host’s presenting work from his personal views.

In 2015, he signed a letter to MPs to block proposed changes to the 2004 Hunting Act, then later in the year he wrote an article in BBC Wildlife magazine complaining about the silence of conservation groups about issues such as fox hunting and badger culling.

The Countryside Alliance responded by calling for the BBC to sack him for breaching impartiality rules.

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The BBC dismissed the complaint, responding that Packham is a freelance TV presenter. It also argued that his Twitter account has “no connection to the BBC”.

The response stated that the constraints for a freelance presenter are “not the same” as they are for a news or current affairs presenter.

It said: “We believe that our audience is able to separate Chris’s presenting work for us from the personal views he shares outside of BBC programmes.”

Lineker is also freelance, working as a sports broadcaster who does not present news or political content.

His personal Twitter account does not include any link to BBC or Match Of The Day in his bio.

However, it should be noted that the complaint against Packham was lodged before the BBC’s current director-general Tim Davie updated social media guidelines in 2020 to urge those who are not involved in news or political content to take care about what they post.

The guidelines state: “There are also others who are not journalists or involved in factual programming who nevertheless have an additional responsibility to the BBC because of their profile on the BBC. We expect these individuals to avoid taking sides on party political issues or political controversies and to take care when addressing public policy matters.”

Andrew Neil

Journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil fronted various political programmes for the BBC while also being the chairman of Press Holdings, whose titles include the Conservative-supporting magazine, The Spectator.

He worked on BBC politics and current affairs shows including This Week, Daily Politics and The Andrew Neil Show for 25 years before leaving to become the founding chairman and presenter of GB News.

Asked to comment on the row, Neil told BBC Newscast that sports pundits are not subject to the same constraints as news presenters, but suggested there should be “some rules” as Lineker is “still the face of the BBC”.

Neil has come under fire for the comments as he faced criticism for his own social media use while he worked at the BBC.

In 2020, he compared journalist Carole Cadwalladr to a “mad cat woman” but later deleted the tweet.

At the time, the BBC responded: “There has been some discussion on here regarding a tweet from Andrew Neil about Carole Cadwalladr. He has deleted the tweet and recognises it was inappropriate.”

Responding to complaints about Neil, the BBC said he was a freelancer and his Twitter account was personal, meaning the corporation is “not responsible for its content”.

The BBC said his tweets publicising The Spectator are “unrelated to his work for the BBC” and he “always adheres to the same rules of impartiality as all other presenters” when carrying out BBC work.

Alan Sugar

TV personality and business tsar Lord Alan Sugar has been outspoken about his personal views for years, from political outbursts to calling on people to vote Tory in newspaper articles.

Lord Sugar, who is at the centre of BBC reality game show The Apprentice, is understood to be employed by the broadcaster on a freelance basis.

He recently criticised Mick Lynch, the General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) after rail strikes were announced in the run-up to Christmas 2022.

Lord Sugar accused the trade unionist of “bringing the country and ordinary people down on their knees over Xmas”, adding: “You don’t fool me waiting for the employers to come to the table. You love the publicity.”

Deborah Meaden

Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden has also weighed in, saying she has “never been curtailed” for her actions on social media, despite being “punchy at times”.

The investor has appeared on the programme since 2006 and during that time has made various comments about politics on her Twitter account.

She criticised the Conservative Party in 2019, writing: “The Conservatives claim to be a party for Business. They are not. They are the Party of hedge funds and financiers.”

Meaden also passed judgement on Liz Truss, writing that she had had “no idea how much devastation” the former prime minister would cause in No 10 Downing Street.

Tweeting in response to the row between Lineker and the BBC, she wrote: “I have never been curtailed in my activities on social media and I have certainly been .. erm… punchy at times which is why I find this whole thing deeply confusing and damaging for an amazing organisation full of smart independent people with hugely diverse views and talents.”

Ian Hislop

Journalist Ian Hislop appears on BBC quiz show Have I Got News For You each week while also working as the editor of the satrical magazine Private Eye.

He is known for making political quips on the BBC show, where he has been a team captain since the programme began in 1990.

Hislop has simultaneously been the editor of Private Eye, a fortnightly satirical and current affairs news magazine, since 1986, which is often critical of the Government.

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Hislop was once asked while appearing on The One Show how they come up with the content on Have I Got News For You. He replied that the hosts usually know what will come up so they can plan around it.

Hislop continued: “Except when something absolutely bizarre happens, like Liz Truss is Prime Minister – then you’re on your own.”

Presenter Ronan Kemp kept the show on track after an awkward silence, saying: “Let’s put it this way, we leave the politics to your show.”

Karren Brady

Karren Brady, an advisor on The Apprentice, is a Conservative peer and has a column in the Sun.

In an article last week, the Baroness supported Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch’s dismissal of suggestions that menopause should be a protected characteristic as it is a “natural process that affects all women”.

Claude Littner, who has also appeared on the BBC show as one of Lord Sugar’s aides, has also taken to Twitter to share political views.

In 2019, he called one Twitter user “an ignoramus”, writing: “Under Labour, the money will run out.”

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