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BBC axes Top Gear’s Clarkson

BBC’s global motoring hit Top Gear faces an uncertain future after the corporation confirmed it was axing high profile host Jeremy Clarkson following a ‘fracas’ with a producer.

Jeremy Clarkson (centre) on Top Gear

Jeremy Clarkson (centre) on Top Gear

Top Gear is one of the broadcaster’s highest rating shows for BBC2 and a best-selling brand for commercial arm BBC Worldwide (BBCWW), estimated to pull in around £50m (US$75m) and aired by broadcasters around the world.

But its future is now unclear after the pubcaster chose not to extend Clarkson’s contract following an incident where he punched producer Oisin Tymon in an argument over meal provision.

Director general Tony Hall confirmed the decision, adding that it had not been “taken lightly” and was made “only after a very careful consideration of the facts and after personally meeting both Jeremy and Oisin Tymon.”

Hall added that the broadcaster would “look to renew Top Gear for 2016” but conceded it would be “a big challenge,” with BBC2 chief Kim Shillinglaw now exploring how the show could continue and the remaining three episodes of the current season, axed last week, be aired.

The BBC had undertaken an investigation into the incident led by BBC Scotland chief Ken MacQuarrie, that found Clarkson had been involved in “a physical and verbal incident.” The physical attacked lasted around 30 seconds, according to MacQuarrie, and required the intervention of others.

Hall said “a line has been crossed” by Clarkson during the “physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature.”

Tony Hall

Tony Hall

“There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.”

Hall added that Tymon had an “important future” at the BBC and praised Clarkson’s “extraordinary contribution” to the corporation.

“I have always personally been a great fan of his work and Top Gear. Jeremy is a huge talent. He may be leaving the BBC but I am sure he will continue to entertain, challenge and amuse audiences for many years to come.”

It was not the first scandal involving Clarkson, who was recently given a final warning for the use of racially offensive terms.

Attention will now turn to the future of Clarkson and the Top Gear brand, which is one of BBCWW’s key international shows. It airs across the globe and has been remade in numerous territories, most recently in China. Four live events in Norway have already been postponed but others are currently set to go ahead as planned, according to BBCWW.

The pubcaster suspended Clarkson earlier this month following the revelations and axed the remaining episodes of the current season while it completed its investigation.

Clarkson’s three-year contract on the show was due for renewal this month, while his stake – and that of producer Andy Wilman – in Bedder 6, the show’s commercial rights company, was acquired by BBCWW in 2012 for an undisclosed fee.

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