The internet doesn’t need another article speculating about what did and didn’t happen between Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and his producer so this isn’t one of them.
But it is about Clarkson, the show and the love-hate relationship some parts of the BBC have with both.
The BBC doesn’t really have a problem with offending people provided they’re people who are to the right of its world view – bad taste jokes about Thatcher, the Queen and religion are all fine.
On the other hand, jokes which offend what’s labeled as the ‘liberal’ mindset of BBC managers are frowned upon.
That’s why no-one at the BBC had a problem with The Vicar of Dibley – an entire sitcom taking the piss out of people opposed to female vicars – but do have an issue with Clarkson referring to lazy Mexicans and their sleeping Ambassador.
For many at the BBC, and the Guardian which in its obsession with Clarkson has squeezed dozens of articles out of his latest escapades, this isn’t just comedic though unimaginative use of a national stereotype but full-on BNP, English Defence League, National Front-level racism.
But the show’s viewing figures and commercial success proves this view isn’t held by a sizeable number of young British males or, quite importantly, by overseas TV buyers and audiences who make the show worth £140m every year.
If Top Gear was the hotbed of KKK cross-burning some like to claim, it’s unlikely that audiences around the world would not just watch it on TV but pay good money to see its live shows as they tour the globe.
The star at each and every live show? Jeremy Clarkson.
Money is why the show continues to be produced but many at the broadcaster are embarrassed that their biggest commercial hit is a show which pisses all over their personal sensitivities and the values they believe the corporation should depict in its output.
It’s like being dependent on handouts from an unfashionable elderly relative – they’re unable to do without the cash but contort to distance themselves from their benefactor without quite refusing to return their calls.
The situation is clearly untenable.
The BBC needs either to accept it has a global hit which resonates with a growing audience and stop pandering to newspapers who use faux outrage over every Clarkson utterance – justified criticism of racist nursery rhymes excluded – as click-bait, or sell the show to a commercial broadcaster which will be happy to bank the cash it generates without any sense of guilt.
The second option would appeal to some BBC bosses – they’d get a one-off big slice of cash they could spend on unchallenging and ultimately unsuccessful shows like Don’t Scare the Hare and The Voice while being free of wicked old Clarkson and his unfashionable (in their leafy suburbs) views.
But the better option would be for them to grow up and embrace the fact that their job is to appeal to all audiences, including those who find Clarkson and Top Gear funny.