I should say something about Clarkson

The problem with writing a media blog sometimes (except when fierce deadlines get in the way as has been the case over the last seven days, but the next issue of Professional Outsourcing Magazine is my best yet, honest) is that everyone will express an opinion on whatever you wanted to write about so there isn’t a lot left to say. But you have to go ahead and say something nonetheless.

So, Jeremy Clarkson.

There’s been a lot said about the incident, in which he punched his junior producer in the face and left him driving himself to casualty because he didn’t get a hot steak. Not that the producer was a chef or anything, but logistics certainly would have been in his province.

There has been a lot of support for Clarkson, and on BBC Question Time only last night a young person in the audience was berating the BBC for losing the mainstay behind such a major brand.

Is it all about money?

I can see the logic. I’ve certainly been known to enjoy the odd episode of Top Gear – I don’t have to share anything in common with Clarkson and the team to rather like the idea that three middle-aged blokes pratting about pretending to talk about cars is good for a laugh.

Nonetheless, let me repeat that sentence from above. “He punched his junior producer in the face and left him driving himself to casualty.”

This isn’t behaviour that can be condoned. It might not be a sacking offence in some contexts – sources close to Clarkson have reportedly pointed out that worse things happen in the interval at rugby matches.

However, this isn’t a rugby match, it’s a publicly-funded TV programme. The question is whether the BBC, which apparently turned a blind eye to all sorts of appalling stuff in the past, is going to publicly condone one of its stars assaulting people.

Clarkson has apparently been in a bad place personally and is now likely to be in a worse one. I have some sympathy with that but this doesn’t mean my license fee should be spent indulging him. If someone, no matter who, punches a junior employee, they may expect not to have their contract renewed (which is different from being sacked, by the way). To me it’s really that straightforward.

The really regrettable bit isn’t Clarkson losing his job – let’s face it, he had a terrific long run and is probably worth millions. It’s the other people who work on the programme, not necessarily the other eminently employable presenters but the smaller people – the non-punched producers (and the punched one), even the merchandising folk. I wonder how many people he’s inadvertently taken down with him.

Nobody who doesn’t know him has any reason to wish Clarkson anything other than well, and whatever he’s going through I hope he gets out OK at the other end. But the decision not to renew his contract has to have been the right one.

Image: Flickr: Tony Harrison

5 thoughts on “I should say something about Clarkson”

  1. Ooh, controversial stuff. What I find disgusting is the hate tweets the punched guy is getting, as if it’s his fault JC got sacked. As I tweeted, I applaud the BBC for this hard decision, being a celebrity doesn’t condone this kind of behaviour, not even a top show. He was on borrowed time anyway, he did all sort of despicable things and tweeted really offensive stuff that was not funny as he retro-justified but just arrogant.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I approve of the fact that Clarkson reported himself when he realised he’d gone too far; in fact if he’d gone a single step further and resigned on principle and said the whole thing was due to overwork and stress we’d have been left with a very different impression.

  3. May I just tangentially add that I have NEVER seen that sort of behaviour during the interval of a rugby match. Sometimes it happens ON the pitch, I grant you, and there, too, it can lead to sin-binning, sending off, and subsequent suspensions. One of the joys of going to watch rugby matches live, where you can’t get very close to the action, can’t hear what the ref’s saying, can’t see the instant replay, etc. is it’s a great atmosphere, to be enjoying being there with 10 thousand other folk, about a third of whom at any given match are supporting the other team, and you just mingle, chat, have a pie, watch the first half, chat some more, watch the second half, then chat and mingle as you head home. Maybe the observer in question was actually at a soccer match…

    As far as Clarksongate is concerned, I fear the problem is that the beeb painted themselves into a corner. As with naughty children, if you make a threat, you have to honour it. If you say “one more like that and you’re sacked”, and there’s one more like that, you have to sack. And it MIGHT just be possible that this plays into the hands of someone or other who was in a position to decide if there would be one more like that. I dare say we shall see.

  4. About time too. It was hard to stomach the racist, war-warmongering comments that fuelled publicity for his next series/book/Christmas CD. Probably wanted to go “With a bang, not a whimper” but did leave the producer whimpering all the way to the hospital I’ve no doubt.

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