Jeremy Clarkson, one of the hosts of the BBC’s massively popular car series Top Gear, was fired today for assaulting a producer on his own show, over a catering snafu. Now the show’s two other hosts, James May and Richard Hammond, could leave as well, throwing into disarray a series that has a global audience of roughly 350 million people and is worth an estimated £50 million ($74 million) per year to BBC Worldwide.
The BBC director general, Tony Hall, said “with great regret” he decided not to renew Clarkson’s contract, saying the presenter had “crossed a line” which left him with no alternative.
North Yorkshire police have requested a copy of the BBC report that found Clarkson had been responsible for an “unprovoked physical and verbal attack” on Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon, who sought hospital treatment after the attack.
Mr. Tymon was treated at a hospital for his injuries but has not pressed charges against Mr. Clarkson.After the BBC was informed of what it initially called “a fracas,” Mr. Clarkson was suspended on March 10 and the last three episodes of this season of the popular “Top Gear” program were postponed.
Tony Hall, the Director General of the BBC, said he had taken the decision to sack Clarkson “with great regret.” Hall added, “It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts and after personally meeting both Jeremy and Oisin Tymon.”
He took “no pleasure” in publishing the findings of McQuarrie’s report. “I know how popular the program is and I also know that this decision will divide opinion.”
“The BBC is a broad church,” Hall said. “Our strength in many ways lies in that diversity. We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. A member of staff—who is a completely innocent party—took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature.”
Clarkson has a history of misbehaving—for instance, using racial slurs, mocking other cultures, fighting Piers Morgan, and just generally being an ass. But it was his alleged assault on a producer that led to the decision the BBC announced today to not renew his contract.