With the sacking of Top Gear's divisive host Jeremy Clarkson, the BBC has likely put itself into an even less tenable position than on the various occasions Lord Hall has defended the brilliant oaf. Of course, the decision had to come down in the face of Clarkson's assault on producer Oisin Tymon; violence in the workplace is generally grounds for dismissal in just about every first world nation.
The victim, Oisin Tymon. C'mon, you're thinking of punching him right now, too.
Whether he's in the middle of some kind of break down or simply a product of power-mad psychopathy (probably a tad of both) nobody can ever get away with abusing their colleagues and their subordinates. There's clearly something going on if you're socking peopling in the mouth over cold cuts - this excerpt from a story about Clarkson's feud with Piers Morgan may shed some light:
There's no mistaking the popularity and hence incredible profitability of Top Gear, the show about cars that's managed to entertain and captivate people who don't even care about cars - while also gaining the distinction of "Most Watched Factual Program in the World" according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Top Gear Magazine global circulation: 1.67 million
Over 4 million unique users on topgear.com every month
Half a billion page views in the last year
Over 8.9 million downloads of Top Gear game apps
Over 1.5 million visitors to Top Gear Live
What does a post-Clarkson BBC look like, as it's presumed that Top Gear's co-hosts will be reluctant to continue without him? After all, James May observed in an off the cuff interview yesterday that the lads are something of a package deal:
Perhaps we can clumsily forecast what may lay ahead for the BBC by drawing some parallels to another national broadcaster from across the pond in Canada. Top Gear is the BBC's cash cow and any significant loss in its audience, as a predictable mutiny is sure to follow Clarkson to his next gig, is going to have an affect on thousands of employees at the BBC, let alone the show's vast production team. Likewise the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has been rocked to its foundation after the loss of its Golden Goose.
Canadians love hockey, and for nearly a century, CBC's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast coverage of NHL games which were central to the company's bottom line; a guaranteed audience and season-long programming.
Last year the CBC, plagued with government cutbacks, didn't (or couldn't) make a bid to maintain a lion's share of the NHL broadcasting rights, and those rights were successfully snapped up by Rogers Communication (Canada's version of Omni Consumer Products) in a deal worth $5.2 Billion - that's a Carl Sagan Billion.
2014, the last CBC owned broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada
The result for Canadian hockey fans was generally pretty positive as it meant access to more games through cable and, crucially, digital/internet sources, but the CBC lost all ad revenue from Hockey Night in Canada. How much of an impact did losing that stream of cash have on the already struggling national broadcaster? Well, the tally includes another 1,500 layoffs YESTERDAY, which according to the Financial Post equates to "the third major round of job cuts in five years after...up to 800 workers in 2009 and about 650 employees in 2012."
But they did get broadcasting rights to the 2018 and 2020 Olympic Games
...so there's almost four weeks of programming over four years...
It's a blow that has seen the national broadcaster undergo a drastic restructuring (not helped by one of their most valuable personalities turning out to have been, like the BBC's Jimmy Savile, a vicious rapist, sorry, "allegedly" but yeah he did it). So drastic in fact that entire swaths of the company have moved into a digital format supplemented largely by content produced by outside contractors including, well, yours truly.
Say, on an unrelated note, why not swing on over to CBC Punchline and enjoy the side-splitting comedy of Michael Allen & Mark Junop? These two crazy kids will have you busting a gut! And to see more, just click the banner ad to your left!
So if the question is does Top Gear have a future, of course as a BBC property it does, albeit obviously in some re-imagined form that likely won't include Richard Hammond or James May and most certainly will never repeat their level of success with the program.
I'd be more concerned with the general future of the BBC, a network, which like Canada's CBC, kind of sort of has already been guilty of abdicating their journalistic responsibilities when they opted out of publishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons after the January attack in France, thus proving that terrorism works.
With Clarkson's contract in the shredder and without knowing what, if any non-compete, intellectual property rights and particulars are riddled throughout May and Hammond's contracts (which are all up this month), who's to say the phone hasn't been ringing with offers to produce a three-hander, car-themed entertainment/travel show. Who, I dare wonder, could front the cash for such an enormously profitable series in some kind of multiple-region, digital format...?