The BBC is poised to fire “Top Gear” host Jeremy Clarkson on Wednesday, a move that threatens the future of the lucrative global franchise for the British pubcaster.
The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday evening that Clarkson would be dismissed following an investigation into an incident in which the fiery personality is alleged to have physically attacked a producer on the show.
The Telegraph reported that BBC officials will thank Clarkson for his contributions to the show, which has become one of the Beeb’s most popular exports, but will also state that such behavior cannot be tolerated by the state-run media operation.
The Telegraph and other outlets reported the BBC hopes that one of its inhouse personalities, Chris Evans, will fill the void left on the show. But it’s unclear whether Clarkson’s co-hosts, Richard Hammond and James May, will continue with “Top Gear” as their contracts are due to expire soon.
Hammond and May have been generally supportive of Clarkson during the past two weeks since he was suspended following reports that he physically attacked a “Top Gear” producer in a “fracas” over the lack of food available during a shoot at a U.K. hotel.
According to reports, Clarkson physically assaulted “Top Gear” producer Oisin Tymon after verbally berating him for as much as 20 minutes.
Clarkson has been a lightning rod for controversy during his 13-year run on “Top Gear.” The journalist and political columnist is known for his strong opinions and on-air bravado.
It’s the camaraderie and friendly competition among Clarkson, Hammond and May that has made “Top Gear” such a hit since it was revamped with the trio as hosts. The emphasis on stunts and globe-trotting adventures for the three hosts has broadened the show’s appeal well beyond auto enthusiasts. The profile of the show has climbed in the U.S. during the past decade thanks to airings on BBC America, where “Top Gear” consistently ranks among the cabler’s highest-rated shows.
Clarkson fans have been protesting and circulating petitions demanding his reinstatement. The hosts had also been in the midst of a “Top Gear Live” tour of the venues in U.K. and Europe that may be tabled after Clarkson’s dismissal.
According to the BBC, “Top Gear” at present airs in 215 territories worldwide and boasts an audience of 350 million. The show brought in more than $225 million in revenue last year for the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.