Controversial Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson has been sacked by the BBC following an investigation into an incident where he physically associated one of the popular TV show’s producers.
“It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract,” the network’s Director-General, Tony Hall, confirmed yesterday.
Clarkson was fired for “sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature” against senior producer Oisin Tymon, who was punched and left with a bloodied lip. The Yorkshire police department has subsequently engaged with the BBC regarding the incident, which could lead to Clarkson being criminally charged over the altercation.
Clarkson’s current contract with the BBC was set to expire at the end of the month. Top Gear was among the BBC network’s highest-rating shows, attracting more than 350 million viewers around the world. The BBC risks severe financial implications for its decision, with its commercial BBC Worldwide arm earning about £50 million ($95 million) a year in selling the TV show’s rights to overseas networks.
More than one million people had signed an online petition calling for the BBC to keep Clarkson after the network originally suspended the 54-year-old when the incident first came to light.
While much of the credit for the show’s popularity can be given to Clarkson, his time as the show’s lead host alongside Jeremy Clarkson and James May has been mired in controversy, particularly in the last few years.
Clarkson’s fans love his straight-talking ‘man of the people’ persona, however, his detractors are frequently critical of behaviour seen to be boorish, sexist, racist and homophobic.
Clarkson was already on a final warning with the BBC, for whom he has worked since 1988, for allegedly using the N-word while reciting an old nursery rhyme in footage leaked to the media (a claim he has repeatedly denied).
In other incidents, he made a racially offensive comment about an Asian man in the series’ recently broadcast Burma Special. Last year, he and the Top Gear crew were forced to flee Argentina after residents hurled stones at a Porsche he was driving which was fitted with license plates that appeared to refer to the Falklands War conflict.
Clarkson was scheduled to headline the Top Gear Live series of tours taking in Europe and Australia – the Sydney event is slated for next month – but it would appear he will no longer be taking part.
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