The widely famous co-host of BBC’s Top Gear car show is out of a job and may face criminal charges. Jeremy Clarkson was fired on Wednesday after the network concluded their investigation into what has been described as “an unprovoked physical and verbal attack” the host allegedly unleashed on a producer of the popular UK show.
The dismissal of Clarkson is big news in the UK and may prove to be costly for BBC. Top Gear is one of the network’s biggest moneymakers and brings in estimated revenue of £50m a year for BBC Worldwide. The popular show was a worldwide hit with an estimated audience of 350 million globally. The first episode of Top Gear’s 22nd season was aired in over 50 countries.
The trouble started on March 4, while members of Top Gear’s staff, including producer Oisin Tymon, and Clarkson were staying at a hotel in North Yorkshire. What BBC describes as a “row” ensued between the two men, allegedly because there was “no hot food…provided” after the crew had finished the day’s filming. Clarkson is said to have physically attacked Tymon, who did not retaliate for the duration of the approximately 30-second fight. After a witness to the attack stepped in to stop the assault, Clarkson continued to browbeat Tymon, making threats to fire him. The swearing and “abusive language” continued so loudly that hotel guests in the dining room were able to hear the verbal assault. According to the BBC investigation, the verbal abuse directed at Tymon and other production staff continued for a “sustained period of time.”
After the assault had ended, Tymon, who thought that he had been fired, went to the hospital to be examined. He did not report the assault. Clarkson, after several days of attempting to apologize to Tymon “by way of text, email and in person,” ended up reporting the attack to BBC management himself, who suspended him on March 10. The co-host’s contract expires this month, and BBC has announced they will not be offering him an extension.
The trouble that led to Clarkson’s dismissal is not his first brush with controversy. The ex-host of Top Gear has a history of making offensive comments. As far back as 2008, while driving a truck for the show, he joked that professional truck drivers often kill prostitutes. One year later, he called Gordon Brown, the former prime minister who is blind in one eye, a “one-eyed Scottish idiot.”
While appearing on The One Show, Clarkson sparked 20,000 complaints to BBC after he joked about killing workers who were on strike in front of their loved ones. Earlier this year, after British media reported that he had used the N-word in a 2012 Top Gear clip that was never aired, and which also garnered an apology by Clarkson, the former Top Gear host said that the BBC had given him a “final warning” that he would be fired if he made “one more offensive remark.”
Despite the controversies which have followed him, Clarkson has many supporters, evidenced by a petition to BBC on change.org asking them to rehire the Top Gear host, and which garnered over 1 million signatures. Many of those asking for his reinstatement blamed his dismissal on political correctness by the BBC, and accused the network of pushing a left-wing agenda on their viewers. These are the same viewers who appreciate Clarkson’s humor because it is inappropriate and would never make the airwaves of state TV.
Clarkson supporters have also used Twitter to lash out against Tymon, blaming him for the host’s firing, even though he may be facing criminal charges for the incident. In a statement released by his attorney, Paul Daniels, Tymon says that he loves Top Gear and that he and Clarkson worked well together and accomplished great things. Calling him a “unique talent,” Tymon says that he understands why many people are not happy that his attacker was fired. Daniels said that the last month has been “a nightmare” for Tymon and those close to him, but that he has handled himself “with dignity, restraint and balance.”
BBC, for now, intends to keep Top Gear on the air, admitting that it “will be a big challenge.” Clarkson co-hosted the show with James May and Richard Hammond. Alth0ugh the show focuses on cars, many viewers tuned in solely to watch the three co-hosts interact with each other. With the firing of Clarkson, May has modified his bio on Twitter to say “Former TV presenter.” His contract, as well as Hammond’s, is also expiring.
Rumors have already begun to circulate that a competitor of BBC, ITV, may hire the trio to do the show on their network. Sky, one of the UK’s major networks, and Channel 4 have already said they would not be pursuing Clarkson. If he does find a new home, it is unclear if BBC would allow the name Top Gear to go with him.
Added to ex-host Clarkson’s ousting from Top Gear is the possibility that he could find himself in criminal trouble. The police in North Yorkshire have requested a copy of the BBC’s investigation for review. A statement by police read that necessary action would be taken if their investigation warrants. They made no further comment.
By Jennifer Pfalz
Image by Tony Harris – Flickr License