The BBC announced on Wednesday that it has dropped Jeremy Clarkson after the Top Gear presenter attacked a producer who as a result required hospital treatment.
BBC director general Tony Hall said he took the decision to end Clarkson’s BBC career “with great regret”, 16 days after he was suspended following a “fracas” with a member of the Top Gear production team, but said the presenter had “crossed a line”.
A BBC investigation led by BBC Scotland boss Ken MacQuarrie found that Clarkson had subjected Oisin Tymon to a 30-second physical attack after a sustained verbal tirade. Tymon took himself to an A&E department for treatment after the assault.
The report, published on Wednesday, revealed the full extent of the attack at the Simonstone Hall hotel in North Yorkshire, which took place after a day’s filming in Newcastle on 4 March.
MacQuarrie concluded that Tymon was “subject to an unprovoked physical and verbal attack” by Clarkson, during which he was “struck, resulting in swelling and bleeding to his lip”.
The attack “lasted around 30 seconds and was halted by the intervention of a witness”, and Tymon “offered no retaliation”.
It said Tymon was “shocked and distressed by the incident” and “drove to a nearby A&E department for examination”.
‘Verbally abused on more than one occasion’
It said Clarkson verbally abused 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.”
Hall said Clarkson had “crossed a line” by subjecting an “innocent party [to] a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature”.
He said the BBC was a “broad church” which required “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.”
Hall 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.
“Given the obvious and very genuine public interest in this, I am publishing the findings of his report. I take no pleasure in doing so. I know how popular the programme is and I also know that this decision will divide opinion. The main facts are not disputed by those involved.”
Hall is a Top Gear fan and has previously stood by the presenter following a string of controversies, including an incident last year when he appeared to mumble the N-word in a Top Gear out-take.
Top Gear’s future
The BBC will attempt to continue with Top Gear, which is BBC2’s most popular show with more than 5 million viewers a week and generates around £50m a year for its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.
Hall 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 [BBC2 controller] 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.”
Clarkson’s contract with the BBC was due to expire at the end of March.
The question now for the BBC is what happens to the other Top Gear presenters Richard Hammond and James May, both of whom have presenting commitments on the BBC outside of Top Gear.
The Top Gear trio’s contracts run out next week. Negotiations for new deals with May and Hammond have been put on hold during the investigation.
Hall also paid tribute to both Tymon and Clarkson. He said it had “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.”
On Clarkson, Hall added: “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.”
Following the findings of the MacQuarrie inquiry, and the fact that Clarkson was put on a final warning after the N-word controversy last year, Hall had little alternative but to let Clarkson go.
MacQuarrie’s report concluded Tymon was the “victim of an unprovoked physical and verbal attack” for which Clarkson had “made a number of attempts to apologise … by way of text, email and in person”.
A “well-valued and respected” member of the Top Gear team, it said Tymon had “suffered significant personal distress as a result of this incident, through no fault of his own”.
Reports that the BBC has lined up Chris Evans to take over from Clarkson are believed to be incorrect.
The Radio 2 breakfast DJ, who has a huge car collection, told listeners on Wednesday: “This is not true. Not only is it’s not true – it’s absolute nonsense.”
Top Gear has been successfully relaunched before – by Clarkson and his executive producer Andy Wilman at the helm – after its previous presenting and production team jumped ship to Channel 5.
Meanwhile, Clarkson’s stint presenting BBC1 quiz Have I Got News for You is still due to go ahead on 23 April. However, sources say the final decision as to whether or not Clarkson will takes part will be down to him and it may be that he wishes to sever his links with the corporation entirely.