The BBC’s former director-general has admitted that the broadcaster should not have fired Jeremy Clarkson because he was someone that they could “ill afford” to lose.
Mark Thompson, 59, said that, although the former Top Gear presenter can be a “deeply objectionable individual”, he “spoke to people who didn’t find much else at the BBC.”
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Clarkson, 56, was fired from the motoring programme in March of last year after he punched one of its producers in a ‘fracas’ over a cold meat platter, with co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond later quitting in solidarity.
Opening up about the Beeb’s decision, Thompson told The Sunday Times: “Clarkson can be a deeply objectionable individual, and I say that as a friend. I don’t think people should punch their colleagues. It’s hard to keep them if they do.
“But I would say his pungent, transgressive, slightly out-of-control talent was something the BBC could ill afford to lose. He spoke to people who didn’t find much else in the BBC.”
He added: “The fact no one ever quite believed the BBC allowed Top Gear to go out was a precious thing to hang on to. As a fan, I regret its passing.”
A newly revamped Top Gear launched following Clarkson’s departure, fronted by Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans and former Friends star Matt LeBlanc, but they witnessed a sharp decline in ratings throughout the series.
And while viewers often praised LeBlanc’s presenting performance, Evans faced a barrage of criticism and subsequently resigned from the BBC money-spinner, claiming that he had given it his “best shot.”
Thompson, who now serves as the chief executive at the New York Times, seemed to agree with the viewing public as he described LeBlanc’s performance as “promising.”
He then described Evans as a “great broadcaster” but said: “I couldn’t work out why he didn’t impersonate Chris Evans, rather than Jeremy Clarkson.”
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