BBC director general Tony Hall said today he was not going to listen to speculation surrounding the future of Jeremy Clarkson at “Top Gear” before making his decision on the presenter’s future.
Clarkson was suspended by the BBC last week after he admitted to a role in “a fracas” with BBC producer Oisin Tymon during the filming of the show. Clarkson reportedly punched Tymon after he and the rest of the Top Gear crew were not served hot food as they returned to their hotel after a day of shooting.
Hall is under some pressure to fire Clarkson outright — the star has been responsible for a series of embarrassing headlines for the BBC, including an incident in which he was shown using the n-word in a video.
That was the context going into Hall’s speech today at the Enders Analysis conference in London for media executives. Hall gave an impassioned defence of the BBC licence fee, which is under review by the government and may be restructured as some sort of household fee or tax.
But in the Q&A session, the first two people to the microphone both asked about Clarkson.
Hall began: “I thought for one glorious moment, you know …” (that he might not get a Clarkson question), a joke that drew laughs. “The most important thing is to gather the facts around you and not listen to all the speculation and let me tell you I will gather the facts and make my decision based on a whole raft of things.”
Hall is suspected by some of being on Clarkson’s side, due to the vast international revenues Top Gear generates for BBC Worldwide and based on a previous incident in which Hall allegedly overruled a producer that Clarkson was unhappy with.
Business Insider then asked him, as the manager of a large organisation, whether it was healthy to keep staff on board who might be punching their colleagues. “You should gather the facts from the people concerned before you make your decision and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” Hall said, to more laughter.
Hall looked heartily bored of being asked about Clarkson.