BBC director-general Tony Hall says there is no time limit on the investigation into Jeremy Clarkson’s alleged punch.
Speaking at a BBC digital event on Thursday, the Corporation’s editor in chief said: “We have to get the people who are impacted by this together. We have begun that work yesterday. There is a lot of speculation but we have got to establish the facts and I intend to do that before we come to a final decision about what to do.”
Hall said he was unable to say when the inquiry would be finished and, asked if there was a timeline in place, he told RadioTimes.com: “No timeline. We have got to make sure we have all the people, the key people, together and find out what happened.”
Asked if Clarkson would be sacked if he were found to be in breach of BBC rules, Hall refused to comment. “I am not going to speculate on that. Once you have the facts then you can make decisions. But I want the facts.”
However there are senior voices within the BBC who would like the investigation concluded speedily.
One senior BBC executive told RadioTimes.com that the Corporation “wanted this all over as quickly as possible.”
“We have got a good man in place who can get to the facts. We would like it done very quickly.”
Indications are that the investigation will not be completed before this weekend, providing Clarkson with ample opportunity to give his own version of events in his Saturday column in the Sun Newspaper and his Sunday Times column the following day.
But with lucrative licensing deals in place for Top Gear, the BBC and its commercial arm BBC Worldwide will want to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
Another BBC source added: “Normally BBC investigations take a long time but I think this may surprise people by being quicker than usual.”
As RadioTimes.com revealed last night, Ken MacQuarrie, the head of BBC Scotland who conducted the inquiry into Newsnight’s botched expose of Lord McAlpine, is to chair the disciplinary panel that will assess claims that the Top Gear presenter punched producer Oisin Tymon last week.
The incident is alleged to have happened at the Simonstone Hall Hotel in Hawes, North Yorkshire, last week, after Tymon told Clarkson the hotel had finished serving hot food.
Clarkson is understood to have told friends that he did not punch Tymon, but that there had been some “handbags and pushing” over the incident.
“The last three episodes of this series have been pulled,” the source said. “Can I see him going back to film another BBC series? I don’t think so. But he’ll be fine. The other broadcasters will bite his arm off.”