Gary Lineker’s treatment exposes fact that image of warm, fuzzy BBC was always a lie | Jonathan Liew

For the right, the BBC has always been a safe space. Now this space is being contested – and it scares the life out of them

For almost 50 years MI5 had agents embedded at the BBC, vetting job candidates with the specific aim of weeding out prospective left-leaning employees. It was known as the “Christmas Tree” process, after the discreet symbol on a personnel file that would advise executives that a particular individual was to be blacklisted. The practice continued well into the 80s, and until a 1985 Observer exposé was denied at all levels.

Perhaps this jars a little with the warm and fuzzy image of the BBC that has been bequeathed to us over the generations. This lovable national treasure, informed by the sacred mission of its founder Lord Reith, a humming hive of family entertainment and artistic monuments and the Sports Report theme tune and David Attenborough cuddling gorillas, a place that expresses the best of us and represents all of us. And it strikes me that many of the strong feelings generated by the treatment of Gary Lineker over the past week originate in this ideal: a honeyed, romanticised BBC that has only ever really existed in the imagination.

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