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Gary versus the BBC – a conflict

My oh my, Twitter is full of comments about Gary Lineker’s tweet! Having read snatches of the content, you could say some of it borders on the offensive. This is, of course, what happens with conflict.

What’s it all about? Well, in a nutshell, this is a conflict about impartiality versus free speech. The BBC’s royal charter states its mission is, ‘…to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.'

Gary Lineker’s offending tweet went out last week with his comment on the UK government policy surrounding the processing and repatriation of asylum seekers. The tweet read "This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the '30s, and I'm out of order?"

Whilst some publications will tell you that ‘everything is negotiable’, clearly that’s not true, and this is a case in point. What we’re talking about here are ‘principles’ or deeply held beliefs. The difficulty with them is that they can’t be reduced, given up or watered down. If they are, then they’re not really a principle in the first place. In other words, they can’t be traded or negotiated.

Does that mean that we can’t resolve the conflict? In a word – no.

We can of course problem solve the issue. We may be able to find a set of words to use that allows both parties to maintain their positions whilst retaining integrity for their said beliefs. This might require the BBC charter to be reworded or maybe a different interpretation of the words put forward. Perhaps Gary might need to stress that his comments represent his own beliefs and are no in way reflective of BBC policy.

Whilst we can’t negotiate on the principle itself, it is possible to negotiate around it. By using a technique that we at Savage Macbeth call ‘Bad news, good news’ we could tell the other side of our principle (which is absolutely non-negotiable), but then surround this with other areas of potential flexibility. The idea is, that we draw our counter part’s attention away from the immovable problematic area to areas of potential flexibility. If we can demonstrate that the value of the sum total of the flexible areas is greater than the one problematic area, this will encourage the party on the receiving end, that a deal which respects the non-negotiable item is worthwhile to them. In this instance, flexible items could include things like a high-profile dinner between Gary and the BBC Director General, Gary’s support for other areas of BBC interest, free guest appearances on other shows, or starring in a public information film etc.

Two important factors with bad news, good news:

  • Firstly, make sure that this is an important make or break issue

  • Secondly (related to the first), don’t be seen to move away from your position on the bad news later – it will potentially damage your integrity for future negotiations

My own personal take is, I was just a little disappointed that I didn’t get to hear Gary and Alan (Shearer) talk about a very rare event – an Everton win. Unlike conflict, it doesn’t happen very often!

Sam Macbeth, 13th March 2023

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