IT is one of the odd contradictions of modern media that the problem tends to generate much more heat than the solution – unless, of course, it’s a bottle return scheme in Scotland.

You will remember the near-catatonic meltdown when Gary Lineker – in his own time and on his own social media account – criticised the Tory government’s inhumane response to refugees and asylum seekers ­arriving in the UK.

Lineker was suspended and some of his freelance colleagues withdrew from that week’s Match Of The Day programme in support of the presenter.

What was surprising was the ­emotional breakdown among the highest ranks of the BBC management. They seemed to be ­leaning to government pressure at a time when there was already significant ­suspicion that the corporation’s ­upper echelons were too close to the current Government’s ­anxieties.

All of this brings us back to impartiality.

The BBC was presented with a ­maddeningly complex issue – how to ­ensure impartiality and political ­fairness, among a sprawling staff base that is ­composed of core employees and ­freelancers ­including those working across television genres with their own in-built rules and ­regulations.

It is no great secret that the BBC ­overreacted and published social media guidelines that many considered to be censorious, too far-reaching and in breach of commonly held rights like freedom of expression.

Set against that was a very ­different public dynamic – that Lineker was a ­hugely well-paid presenter and should be less ­vocal about sensitive issues from a ­privileged platform provided by the BBC.

The National: BBC

In seeking to resolve the controversy, the BBC agreed to review its social ­media guidelines and, channelling its own inner impartiality, the company reached out to an outsider, former ITN chief John ­Hardie, a Glasgow University graduate.

As part of his review, Hardie spoke to more than 80 people with various ­relationships to the BBC, including internal ­compliance managers and freelancers on short-term contracts. He has since published a ­document that has brought subtlety to an arena where too many ­sledgehammers were trying to crack nuts.

Listening to a wide range of ­stakeholders, Hardie came to the obvious conclusion that the BBC could not reasonably exert absolute authority over people it was not paying. Nor was its top-down form of ­management ideally suited to the ­complexity of the creative ­industries ­supply chain.

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Why, for example, should a ­camera ­operator who is paid to work on a ­Wednesday be restricted on what they say on a Friday when they might be ­being paid by another broadcaster or, just as ­likely, ­sitting at home unemployed?

Hardie resisted the temptation to ­generalise and picked away at all the many conflicting issues. It was clear and broadly agreed that notions of ­impartiality should be stricter within news and current ­affairs and those areas of factual journalism that touch on matters of public policy and where audiences have a much higher expectation of fairness and impartiality than in other genres.

Even then, there are anomalies – ­factual journalism includes that swathe of ­presenter-led opinion pieces that are fronted by people with expertise and opinion.

A good example would be Darren ­McGarvey who has built a reputation as an anti-poverty activist. Do we ­really ­expect him to be impartial about the root causes of poverty? Similarly, do we expect ­impartiality from harm reduction ­advocate Graeme ­Armstrong, whose Street Gangs is available now on iPlayer?

TV executives would argue that these are examples of personal ­perspective films but they are also a reminder that ­audiences are capable of distinguishing between a journalist with a viewpoint and a news presenter behind a studio desk.

Hardie has also addressed an ­unspoken conundrum at the heart of the BBC, which is embodied in two substantial ­pillars of public broadcasting – ­impartiality and universality.

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In other words, restrictions on a ­presenter’s opinions must be at their keenest when the show they are ­fronting is universally available and watched by substantial numbers of people across the UK.

Elsewhere in the report, it reminds us that flagship presenters who are on air ­regularly and still have a ­significant ­audience in the aftermath of live ­transmission on iPlayer have a more ­onerous responsibility than most. Lineker has accepted that.

Hardie's report went further and ­identified a list of so-called “flagship” shows, where huge audiences experience a programme and “know” the presenters as faces of the BBC.

Among them are Match Of The Day (fronted by Lineker), the dance ­reality franchise Strictly and The Apprentice which is fronted by Alan Sugar. Hardie’s report avoided the obvious wrinkle that Sugar is a lord and appears on the show as Lord Sugar, in what is a potentially ­unpopular political system – the peerage.

Jump-cut to the feverish fringe events that always debase the Tory Party ­conference. The mood there among right-leaning activists was that the BBC had caved in to Lineker and his “woke” army of followers, a view that is not only ­unhinged but out of step with the nuanced nature of the published review.

That said, the advent of the new ­guidelines does ­offer a glimmer of ­support for Lineker by ­saying that ­“high-profile presenters outside of journalism should be able to express views on issues and policies – including matters of ­political contention – but stop well short of ­campaigning in party politics or for ­activist organisations”.

This was both permission and a veiled critique of Lineker’s original tweet which was unequivocally aimed at Suella ­Braverman and her extreme views on ­immigration.

So far, so good, but what does the report say about Scotland – if anything?

Well, one screechingly obvious point is that despite years of initiatives aimed at strengthening production in the ­nations and regions, none of the BBC’s ­flagship shows are produced in ­Scotland. ­Secondly, the review was conceived of as a network document and did not ­mention any shows currently on air on BBC ­Scotland.

But there was one welcome ­recognition. Among the guidelines was a list of the ­contemporary issues that BBC ­presenters and freelance staff have a legitimate right to address under freedom of ­expression. They expressly include climate change, gender ideology and Scottish ­independence.

Recognising Scottish independence as a relevant and legitimate issue for non-news staff to debate online is a huge ­compromise by BBC management and may not have come about if Hardie ­himself was not a Scot.

It is hardly a groundbreaking ­milestone in human rights but it removes doubt from freelancers and other BBC staff who ­support independence that they are ­entitled to voice reasonable opinion without the fear of censure.

It is now an established fact that those of us who have some editorial ­association with the BBC are free to reflect our ­opinions online without running the risk of undue management intervention.

It is a small victory for common sense and one that Gary Lineker inadvertently brought about.