BBC could ill afford to lose Jeremy Clarkson, says ex-director general


The BBC should have tried to keep hold of Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, whose talent they could ill afford to lose, former director general Mark Thompson has said.

While Clarkson could be a "deeply objectionable character", he "spoke to people who didn't find much else at the BBC", Mr Thompson said in an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine.

Former head of the BBC Mark Thompson

Clarkson's contract was not renewed at the motoring show in March last year following a "fracas" with a producer, while James May and Richard Hammond quit in solidarity.

The trio will launch new Amazon Prime show The Grand Tour in the autumn.

) James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson as their new Amazon Prime motoring show The Grand Tour will be making a stop-off in the UK.

"Clarkson can be a deeply objectionable individual, and I say that as a friend," Mr Thompson told The Sunday Times.

"I don't think people should punch their colleagues. It's hard to keep them if they do."

He added: "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."

Jeremy Clarkson during Clarkson, Hammond and May Live, the first of three days at The O2 for the former Top Gear team.

A rebooted Top Gear was launched following Clarkson's departure, fronted by Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans and former Friends star Matt LeBlanc, but ratings were seen as a disappointment.

The show initially attracted 4.4 million overnight viewers, plummeting to 2.8 million for the second episode. The show never went back above that figure.

Chris Evans, the new presenter of BBCâÂEURÂ(TM)s Top Gear programme, and The Stig during a photocall on the Boulevard de la Croisette for the annual television industry trade show MIPCOM in Cannes, France. ... Chris Evans interview in Cannes ... 06-10-2015 ... Cannes ... France ... Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/Unique Reference No. 24349741 ... Picture date: Tuesday October 6, 2015. During an interview with the Press Association Evans hinted that there may not be co-hosts with him at all times throughout the new show. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Mr Thompson left the BBC in 2012 to work as chief executive at The New York Times.

A self-confessed Top Gear fan, he described LeBlanc's performance in the revamped series as "promising".

He described Evans as a "great broadcaster" but said: "I couldn't work out why he didn't impersonate Chris Evans, rather than Jeremy Clarkson."