Jeremy Clarkson dropped by BBC after Top Gear fracas

BBC director-general says Clarkson's behaviour "crossed a line"

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Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear career is over after the BBC announced that it will not be renewing his contract following his “fracas” with a producer on the show.

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After a saga lasting two weeks, the Corporation formally announced that it was dispensing with the services of the presenter following an incident in a Yorkshire hotel earlier this month.

BBC director-general Tony Hall issued a statement which said: “It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract.  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.

“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.  For me a line has been crossed.  There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.”

Clarkson’s dismissal follows a detailed report by BBC Scotland boss Ken MacQuarrie which was handed to BBC director-general Tony Hall earlier this week.

MacQuarrie concluded that the star engaged his producer Oisin Tymon in a 30-second physical assault after a verbal tirade.

He concluded: “During the physical attack Oisin Tymon was struck, resulting in swelling and bleeding to his lip. The verbal abuse was sustained over a longer period, both at the time of the physical attack and subsequently.”

MacQuarrie added that “the verbal abuse was directed at Oisin Tymon on more than one occasion – both during the attack and subsequently inside the hotel – and contained the strongest expletives and threats to sack him. The abuse was at such volume as to be heard in the dining room, and the shouting was audible in a hotel bedroom.”

MacQuarrie added that Tymon was “distressed by the incident, and believed that he had lost his job”. The report confirmed reports that he sought medical attention at an A&E department and that Clarkson reported the incident to BBC management.

Clarkson was suspended by the BBC earlier this month following the clash with Tymon at a north Yorkshire hotel after the show finished a day’s filming on location in Newcastle.

The presenter was said to have been unhappy after being offered a cold platter of food rather than steak and chips, with some reports suggesting it was a consequence of problems during the day’s shoot.

The latest incident has proved to be the final straw for the presenter who has been involved in a series of controversies over the past two years.

He was given a final warning by the BBC last year after he appeared to mumble the N-word while humming a nursery rhyme during a Top Gear out-take.

Last year also saw Clarkson, fellow presenters James May and Richard Hammond and the rest of the Top Gear crew flee Argentina after being pelted with stones by protestors who believed that the number-plate on Clarkson’s Porsche was a veiled reference to the Falklands War.

Clarkson was also censured by broadcasting regulator Ofcom for a section of Top Gear’s Burma Special in which the team built a bridge over a river. As a man walked across the bridge Clarkson commented that there was a “slope on it”, with Ofcom judging that the racial slur was “offensive” and that the programme makers should have checked its impact.

Tony Hall added that the BBC keen to continue with Top Gear, one of BBC2’s most popular shows with more than five million viewers a week.

He said: “The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016.  This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise.  I have asked Kim Shillinglaw to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months.  I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series.”

It is also one of the BBC’s most valuable shows, popular with viewers around the world and generating about £50m a year for the corporation’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.

In a lengthy statement the director-general said he wanted to make three points:

“First – The BBC is a broad church. 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. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.

“Second – This has obviously been difficult for everyone involved but in particular for Oisin. I want to make clear that no blame attaches to him for this incident. He has behaved with huge integrity throughout. As a senior producer at the BBC he will continue to have an important role within the organisation in the future.

“Third – Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC. 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.”

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