Following Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension earlier this week, the BBC could be slapped with a multi-million dollar bill from foreign broadcasters eligible for compensation.
The “Top Gear” host was suspended indefinitely and two of the three remaining editions of the current series were pulled from the schedules after he reportedly got into a fight with a producer and tried to punch him in the face. According to multiple reports, the fracas occurred because Clarkson became enraged with producer Oisin Tymon when no hot food was available after a day’s filming.
The 54-year-old host had already received a “final warning” from the BBC for using a racist slur during filming last year.
Now the BBC could be liable for penalty payments — likely to run into millions of dollars — for failing to deliver the final episodes of the series on time, as well as having to renegotiate the original deal price for a full series, according to the Guardian.
“Top Gear” is one of the BBC’s biggest money spinners, generating an estimated $75 million a year and spawning merchandise, magazines, DVDs, live events and locally-produced versions in the U.S. and China.
“We are working on supplying international broadcast partners with alternative content,” said a spokesman for BBC Worldwide. The network will reportedly offer foreign broadcasters “Top Gear” programming that has not been aired before in their respective markets as a consolation.
Since it first aired in the U.K. in 2002, “Top Gear” has grown from a straightforward show about cars into a global phenomena watched by 350 million viewers in 170 countries. According to the New York Times, Clarkson is paid about $1.5 million a year to present the show, making him one of the BBC’s most highly-paid employees.
His latest transgression has caused ripple effects in England and the U.S., where “Top Gear” airs on BBC America and is one of the cable network’s highest-rated shows, with an average audience of 823,000 viewers in Nielsen’s live-plus-three ratings. It has also sparked a Change.org campaign, which already has 750,000 signatures.
Clarkson could walk away from the show when his contract runs out at the end of this month whatever the verdict of the BBC’s inquiry into the affair, and rival U.K. broadcasters are expected to swoop in to sign the controversial but popular host.
The politically incorrect presenter’s latest outburst came just days before Clarkson and co-hosts, James May and Richard Hammond, were due to sign their new contracts for the new three years, negotiations of which have now been called off.