UK public broadcaster the BBC has decided to pull the remaining episodes of flagship motoring series Top Gear after controversial star presenter Jeremy Clarkson (above, centre) was suspended after an altercation with a member of the production team.
“Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation,” The BBC said in a statement. “No one else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday.”
The BBC reported on its news site that the remaining two instalments of Top Gear will also be shelved, dealing a blow to BBC Two, which puts it out in a Sunday evening slot. It is also one of the most-requested shows on the iPlayer catch-up service.
The show is popular in the UK and a big worldwide hit. Distributor BBC Worldwide claims it is the most-watched factual format in the world.
At the time of going to press, almost 250,000 people had signed a petition to reinstate Clarkson, who has long courted controversy. He is understood to have been on his final warning from the broadcaster after allegedly using a racist term during filming.
In an earlier incident he was censured for using a term considered offensive to Asian people, and the show also found itself in hot water after using a number plate that allegedly referred the Falklands War while filming in Argentina. Producers insisted this was a coincidence, and not a purposeful move.
Clarkson and the show have also been accused of offensive attitudes towards India and Mexico, sparking High Commission and ambassadorial complaints respectively, but the show is hugely popular around the world and one of the key international titles for BBCWW, the commercial arm of the BBC.
The finished series has been sold around the world where there are numerous buyers include free and pay TV channels as well as newer players such as Netflix.
It has also struck format deals for local versions of the show in territories including China, South Korea (pictured) and the US. It also performs well in ancillary sectors with strong magazine and DVD sales as well as live events.
Worldwide counts the series among its major franchises, or ‘super brands’, alongside Dancing with the Stars and Doctor Who.
In its 2012/13 annual report, Worldwide said it has agreed new deals with the Top Gear presenting team that comprises Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. “This will allow us to continue to grow the brand around the world, reinvest in Top Gear and return profits to the BBC,” it said at the time.
In 2012 Worldwide bought a minority stake in the production company run by Clarkson and Top Gear producer Andy Wilman, and which controlled Top Gear internationally, for £14.4 million (US$21.7 million).