The BBC has suspended Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, as well as removing the TV show from its schedule, at least temporarily.
At 4.42pm GMT, the BBC issued a simple two paragraph press release: “The BBC has today released the following statement regarding Jeremy Clarkson/Top Gear.
Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation. No one else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday. The BBC will be making no further comment at this time.”
Top Gear typically airs on Sunday nights on BBC2 at around 8pm. Although ratings for the show in Australia have plummeted since its heyday on SBS — first run episodes are now shown on pay TV — the series still rates well in the UK and is generally the highest rating programme on BBC2.
Episodes this season, its twenty-second in its current format, have been pulling in between six and seven million viewers for the BBC.
Clarkson, as many people know, has not been too far away from controversy since he helped revive the franchise in 2002.
Last year, footage that contained Clarkson mumbling a racist version of the nursery rhyme “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” was published online; the clip never made it into the episode’s final edit.
In the aftermath of the leak, Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, decided to place the presenter on a “final warning”. According to Clarkson, in his weekly column in The Sun newspaper: “I’ve been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked.”
Update (7.30am AEDT): British publication Radio Times claims that the “fracas” involved Clarkson aiming a punch at an unnamed producer on the show. It’s believed that the incident occurred last week, but the incident was only reported to BBC management this week.