BBC television boss Danny Cohen says controversial Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is not untouchable.
In his most outspoken denunciation yet of Clarkson – who has been lambasted in recent months for his politically incorrect gaffes – Cohen said the host’s use of the racially-offensive word “slope” in a Burma Top Gear special and his apparent mumbling of the N-word in an unbroadcast sequence from the show would have an “impact” on Top Gear.
Speaking at a session today at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Cohen noted that Clarkson still does not believe he has done anything wrong, but indicated that if he makes another similar error then he is not so big that he couldn't be fired.
Cohen said: “I was very clear in public and in private that I was incredibly unhappy with his language.
“I have made that extremely clear and Jeremy knows that that will impact on the way the show is thought about in the future.
“People have loads of views on Jeremy Clarkson. There are people who think that me being so angry about it is an over-reaction. I don’t think it is an over-reaction.
“And he disagrees too, by the way. He doesn’t see a problem with some of the language that has been used but I do. I think it is unacceptable. I have made that really, really clear to him and we will go from there.”
Asked by the session chair, Sky News presenter Dermot Murnaghan, whether Clarkson was too valuable to get rid of, or was "untouchable", Cohen said: “It’s like football clubs – no-one’s bigger than the club and that’s why I was so clear in public and private that I was unhappy with it and wouldn’t accept it. No one show or person is bigger than the BBC and that’s they way I see it.”
Asked by RadioTimes.com whether Clarkson was on a final warning, Cohen said: “He feels differently but I think it’s very important that a member of the team has done something unacceptable then it’s very important that you tell him and I have given him that very strongly.”
Cohen said that Top Gear will not move from BBC2 to BBC1.
“I made the decision [to move] Bake Off [from BBC2 to BBC1] but I am not planning a similar decision for Top Gear,” he said.