So farewell then Jeremy Clarkson. The Top Gear host and much-loved television presenter will not have his BBC contract renewed.
The BBC’s director-general Tony Hall issued a statement to media Wednesday afternoon, saying it was “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,” Hall added. “I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts and after personally meeting both Jeremy and Oisin Tymon.”
That might not be the end of the matter for Clarkson. North Yorkshire Police said it had asked the BBC for its report into the ‘fracas’ in a luxury hotel in the county and said action will be taken ‘where necessary’.
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “North Yorkshire Police is liaising with the BBC regarding the alleged incident in North Yorkshire involving Jeremy Clarkson. We have asked the BBC for the report which details the findings of their internal investigation into the matter.
“The information will be assessed appropriately and action will be taken by North Yorkshire Police where necessary. It would not be appropriate for North Yorkshire Police to comment further at this time.”
Tony Hall’s decision abruptly ends the show’s 22nd season which had three episodes remaining.
Because of Clarkson’s suspension, the production was unable to film the show’s studio links for the programme, forcing the postponement and now abandonment of the episodes.
Clarkson’s two co-hosts, Richard Hammond and James May, had indicated they would not film the programmes without him.
Speaking outside his home in west London, James May told the BBC that Clarkson’s departure is a ‘tragedy’.
He said: “Well apparently they have shot him. I’ve only found this out by prising the information out of various BBC sources, nobody has actually told me officially until a few moments ago when they emailed.
“I don’t really have anything to say about it. It’s a tragedy. I’m sorry that what ought to have been a small incident sorted out easily has turned into something big.
“I don’t really want to say anything more than that at the moment, I have only known for the past few minutes and if you excuse me I have to write the eBay listing for my Ferrari.”
Asked if he thought the decision was fair, May said: “It is probably within the law and their hands were tied… I’m sure Top Gear will continue in some way. It existed before us and it has been reformatted several times.”
Asked if he will stay at Top Gear, May said: “Well I don’t want to talk about that too much but I think we are very much the three of us as a package. It works for very complicated reasons that a lot of people don’t fully understand. So that will require a lot of careful thought.”
This has been a public relations disaster for the BBC. The original incident happened 17-days ago and could have been dealt with swiftly rather than sucked into the bureaucratic depths of the publicly-funded broadcaster.
Now the BBC is left to counter the backlash of millions of viewers who feel denied the chance to view a man and a programme that gave genuine delight around the world.
Clarkson’s next move will be watched…. probably on a commercial UK network.