The no-nonsense driving force behind BBC2’s Top Gear confirmed tonight that he is quitting the show. And when RadioTimes.com caught up with executive producer Andy Wilman he had a surprise admission to make. “I’m off to the ballet,” he told us. “I like a bit of ballet.”
Wilman, a close friend and former school pal of sacked programme host Jeremy Clarkson, said he had handed in his notice “quietly and calmly.”
“I said last month that if ever I resigned it would be through the proper HR channels and that’s what I’ve done. No fuss, no bother.”
He declined to say whether BBC2 channel controller Kim Shillinglaw had tried to persuade him to stay or what his next move would be. “There are no irons in the fire,” he insisted. It is, though, thought to be his intention to take personal charge of packaging up the clips from the three cancelled shows and putting them on air before he departs.
His departure comes on the same day that James May confirmed he would not return to Top Gear without his co-host because he said that the show without Clarkson would be a “a bit of a daft idea”.
This week BBC2 boss Shillinglaw said Jeremy Clarkson “will be back on the BBC” but added that she was looking for a replacement for the presenter on Top Gear.
Last month Wilman sent his colleagues on the show a “farewell” email but denied that it was a resignation letter.
The BBC formally announced that it was dispensing with the services of Jeremy Clarkson on 25th March following an incident in a Yorkshire hotel where the presenter was involved in a physical and verbal attack on a producer of the show.
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 followed a detailed report by BBC Scotland boss Ken MacQuarrie.
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.”
He said 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.
The incident was one of many controversies involving Clarkson 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 were 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.”
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