BBC director-general Tony Hall managed to end a difficult day last night by celebrating the 25th birthday of BBC Films.
And he took time out to talk to RadioTimes.com about the decision not to renew Jeremy Clarkson’s contract by revealing how much a fan of his show he was – and how he thought the latest series was possibly the best.
“It was a tough decision, and I have always said I am a fan of the show,” he said at the party in the BBC’s Radio Theatre. “I was really enjoying the latest series. In a way it is a show that got better and better. It was definitely one of the best [series] yet.”
However it is clear that his fondness for the show could not stand in the way of his decision not to renew Jeremy Clarkson’s contract. He added that yesterday had been a “difficult” day but he felt sure “the right decision had been made”.
Hall declined to elaborate on his detailed statement made in the wake of his decision to call time on Clarkson’s Top Gear career, but at last night’s event he appeared heartened to have received the public backing of actor and director Kenneth Branagh who delivered a stirring speech.
Recounting his long career with BBC Films, for whom he has acted in a number of films including Much Ado About Nothing and My Week with Marilyn, Branagh delivered a rousing paean to the Corporation calling it a “big, beautiful thing that is to be cherished.”
Also attending the star studded party was actors Alan Rickman, Damian Lewis and Sherlock star Andrew Scott alongside Hall and senior executives including creative director Alan Yentob.
Last night Yentob appeared to leave the way open to a possible Clarkson return to the BBC. Asked on Newsnight whether he could return the executive said: “Of course I wouldn’t rule that out, but that’s not for now.”
Yentob also suggested that the stress of the last year was possibly a factor in Clarkson’s clash with producer Oisin Tymon.
“The decision to extend, to do the run of 12 at once, was the decision of the team. In retrospect, was it the right decision? Well, that’s a question that you would have to say probably it wasn’t the right decision.
“Whether it would have led to these events is speculative. It’s very difficult to say why this happened. Clearly, workload is one thing, the stress of the year, all the rest of it.”
The BBC announced that Jeremy Clarkson’s contract would not be renewed yesterday following an inquiry led by BBC Scotland boss Ken MacQuarrie into the altercation between Clarkson and producer Oisin Tymon who was left with a bruised and swollen lip.
Hall’s statement 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.”
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