Even those more sympathetic to the BBC said the agreement was a humiliating retreat for its management, which did not count on Mr. Lineker’s colleagues walking out in a dramatic, and destabilizing, act of solidarity.
“It’s a cave-in,” said Alan Rusbridger, a former editor of The Guardian. “They didn’t think it through, didn’t anticipate that Lineker would have such support from his colleagues. The only way out was the one they’ve chosen: essentially a fudge.”
Ending the license fee for the BBC is not a priority for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has focused his government on fixing the economy and has largely shunned the cultural battles that often engaged his predecessor, Boris Johnson. Mr. Sunak kept his distance from the standoff over Mr. Lineker, saying it was a matter for him and the BBC.
He also distanced himself from the chairman of the BBC’s board, Richard Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker with whom Mr. Sunak once worked. Mr. Sharp, a Conservative Party donor, is being investigated for his role in arranging a loan of 800,000 pounds ($973,000) for Mr. Johnson.
The prime minister told reporters traveling with him to San Diego on Sunday that Mr. Sharp had been appointed by his predecessor in a process that, Mr. Sunak added, he “had nothing to do with.” Mr. Sunak was in California to inaugurate the next phase of a submarine alliance with Australia and the United States.
The questions swirling around Mr. Sharp have made it difficult for him to represent the BBC during its recent upheaval. And the convoluted nature of his ties to the Tories have led some critics to demand that he resign.
“Richard Sharp’s position is increasingly untenable,” the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, said in an earlier interview with ITV. “I think most people watching the complete mess of the last few days would say, How on earth is he still in position and Gary Lineker has been taken off air?”