CULTURE Secretary Michelle Donelan has defended BBC board member Robbie Gibb for telling journalists not to cast Brexit in a “negative light”.

Gibb, who previously served as director of communications for Theresa May, was said to be “frustrated” by the manner of reporting on Brexit, according to The New Statesman.

The magazine reported that Gibb did not want Brexit portrayed in a "negative light" and that he had concerns people would believe the BBC "had an agenda". 

Former Newsnight host Emily Maitlis raised her concerns about Gibb’s position during a lecture she gave in Edinburgh last year. The former Newsnight host alleged that he was an "active agent" of the Tory party.

Speaking on The News Agents podcast, hosted by Maitlis and Jon Sopel, the Culture Secretary was grilled over whether or not Gibb’s comments were appropriate.

Donelan prefaced her answer by saying that she was hearing everything “second-hand”.

Asked if she was comfortable with a board member telling journalists how to report on Brexit, Donelan replied: “So what it might have been that he was trying to say, I wasn’t there, I don’t know, is you can’t only present Brexit in a negative light, which would have been defending impartiality, which I would be completely comfortable with because you’ve got to present both sides and you can’t just pick a side and then go down that.

“So it may well be that it was that and I know Robbie Gibb and that is my instinct of what he would have been saying because he’s so passionate about impartiality.”

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Gibb, an outspoken Brexiteer, has worked closely with multiple top Conservatives over the decades.

He served as chief of staff to Tory life peer Francis Maude between 1997 and 2000 and also supported Michael Portillo in his 2001 bid to become leader of the Tory party.

In the same interview, Donelan expressed concerns over comments made by Gary Lineker, saying he should be “conscious” of what he said.

The Match of the Day presenter described the US as “an extraordinarily racist country” as he also reflected on issues surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Asked about the comments, Donelan said: “As a commentator on a public service broadcaster, he does have to be conscious of the comments that he makes.”

Maitlis asked if Lineker had crossed an impartiality line and suggested that he had in fact been impartial.

The Culture Secretary said: “I think he strayed a little bit further into his language and he didn’t say it as diplomatically as that but the general point wasn’t about this is one individual, this is the problem of the BBC, the problem of the BBC is Gary Lineker.

“What I was doing was using a range of examples to show that is highlighting a culture which allows that kind of behaviour which is what they need to deal with.”