BBC director general Tony Hall is siding with Jeremy Clarkson in the fight over whether he should be fired from “Top Gear,” the Daily Telegraph reports. Hall is likely fearful of losing a large part of the estimated £150 million in annual revenue that the show produces.
Clarkson was suspended by the BBC last week after he admitted “a fracas” with BBC producer Oisin Tymon. 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. The crew arrived at the Simonstone Hall Hotel in the Yorkshire Dales at about 10 p.m. expecting a steak, but was served a platter of cold cheese instead as the chef had already closed the kitchen.
Clarkson admitted some “handbags and pushing” over the incident, but claimed he did not punch Tymon.
Hall has declared he is a fan of Clarkson, and the presenter has used his connection to Hall to overrule disciplinary measures in the past. The Evening Standard reported that in May 2014, Clarkson was asked to take a break after a video of him chanting a nursery rhyme that featured the n-word went public. But when BBC director of TV Danny Cohen summoned Clarkson to his office to tell him he was being suspended, Clarkson pulled out his phone, called Hall’s personal number, and Hall overruled Cohen.
In fact, the BBC has never taken a major disciplinary action against Clarkson despite a string of incidents in which he caused offence, including a time when he called former prime minister Gordon Brown “a silly c—.”
A BBC disciplinary panel led by BBC Scotland chief Ken McQuarrie is investigating the pub fracas, according to The Guardian, and Clarkson may give his account of the incident as early as today.
Clarkson is “intensely relaxed” about the suspension issue, a friend told The Daily Mail. During a football match at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, Clarkson was asked if he feared being sacked and reportedly answered: “Well, it is coming, isn’t it?”
Tymon, who has worked on Top Gear since 2005, has been in hiding all week and has even been targeted with personal threats by Clarkson fans online, The Daily Mail reports. Tymon may also tell his side of the story to the disciplinary panel today.
The financial pressure the BBC is facing over Clarkson is huge. “Top Gear” is one of the most successful shows at the corporation is watched, on average, by 350 million people worldwide every week. According to CityAM, the British audience is about 5 million viewers per week.
The Financial Times wrote that Clarkson is the BBC’s highest-paid presenter. The shows pulls in an annual revenue of £150 million, according to The Telegraph.