Complaints as BBC pulls ‘Top Gear’ after Clarkson incident

Britain’s media regulator contacted by 106 people after decision to take show off air

The BBC’s decision to pull Top Gear from the TV schedule following Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension has prompted more than 100 viewers to complain to Britain’s media regulator. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire.

The BBC’s decision to pull Top Gear from the TV schedule following Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension has prompted more than 100 viewers to complain to Britain’s media regulator. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire.

 

The BBC’s decision to pull Top Gear from the TV schedule has prompted more than 100 viewers to complain to Britain’s media regulator.

The BBC took the decision to “postpone” two episodes of Top Gear, and is undecided about whether to air a third, after suspending Jeremy Clarkson pending an investigation into his “fracas” with producer Oisin Tymon.

Ofcom has received 106 complaints about pulling the show, which regularly attracts more than 5 million viewers. However, the BBC has refused to reveal how many people have complained directly.

Sunday night’s schedule filler, a documentary on RAF aerobatics team the Red Arrows, attracted an audience of just 1.3 million.

Fans of the show include prime minister David Cameron, who described Clarkson as a “huge talent”, adding that his children would be “heartbroken” to see Top Gear pulled from TV.

An online petition calling for Clarkson to be reinstated on the show has been signed by 929,000 people.

The BBC complaints department told viewers contacting it that it had “received a wide range of feedback about this and some people have expressed their disappointment or have asked for more information”.

It continued: “We do hope you’ll understand that we value this reaction, but the investigation is still under way. Until more is known, we’re therefore unable to say anything further in response and will not yet be making further statements about the issue.

“We realise you’ll be disappointed that we can’t respond to you in any more detail but thank you for contacting us.”

Clarkson and Top Gear producer Mr Tymon, who is Irish, will give their version of the “fracas” at a Yorkshire hotel to Ken MacQuarrie, the director of BBC Scotland tasked with heading the corporation’s inquiry, as soon as Monday as BBC chiefs look for a quick resolution to the affair.

Clarkson used his column in the Sun newspaper on Saturday to hint that he may leave the BBC, saying the day has come when you “wave goodbye to the big monsters”.

Ofcom will not take any action about the complaints it receives as the regulator can only assess a breach of the broadcasting code if a show has actually aired.

Meanwhile, the racing driver who was The Stig on Top Gear for eight years, has said that the BBC show could thrive without Clarkson.

Ben Collins fell out with the broadcaster when it launched legal action - which it failed to win - over his decision to reveal his identity and publish an autobiography.

Collins told Radio Times magazine that the embattled presenter was not supportive of him in his own clash with the corporation. He said that the BBC2 show could continue to succeed without Clarkson.

“Top Gear has achieved huge status and Jeremy has certainly been part of that because he’s got such a big personality... he’s an unstoppable force,” he said.

“But fans of the programme love it for lots of different reasons. Jeremy is certainly one of them, but not the only one.”

Collins, who was The Stig until 2011, said “the Bond franchise.... changes and moves forward. Top Gear will always continue.... It will carry on and continue to be successful because millions of people watch it.”

Guardian Service/PA