Entertainment & Arts

Top Gear: 350,000 sign petition supporting Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Clarkson was suspended after a "fracas" with a BBC producer

An online petition calling for the BBC to "reinstate" Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has been signed by more than 350,000 people.

Clarkson, 54, was suspended after a "fracas" with one of the show's producers, Oisin Tymon.

Sunday's episode of Top Gear will not be shown, and it is understood the two final episodes in the series will also be dropped.

The petition was started on Tuesday by political blogger Guido Fawkes.

It reached the 250,000 mark by mid-morning on Wednesday.

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Media captionJames May said he did not think the situation was that serious

Asked about the Clarkson incident, co-presenter James May told BBC News: "I think he's been involved in a bit of a dust-up and I don't think it's that serious." He said he had not been present.

Earlier on Wednesday, Clarkson's retweeted a message to his 4.5m Twitter followers from a Top Gear viewer which read: "How can BBC not show the remaining episodes of Top Gear, can't this be resolved without making the fans suffer?"

He had exchanged suggestions on Twitter with Top Gear co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May about films that could be aired in place of the Sunday's planned episode.

BBC News special correspondent Lucy Manning said sources had confirmed reports Clarkson was suspended for "allegedly hitting a producer".

"The incident is believed to have happened last week, but was reported to the BBC on Monday and dealt with on Tuesday," she said.

Image copyright Ellis O'Brien/BBC Worldwide Limi
Image caption Top Gear is presented by James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson

"The next two episodes of Top Gear will not be broadcast and it's understood that a third programme, the final of the series, is unlikely to be transmitted."

The Daily Mirror said the alleged incident took place after filming in Newcastle over a lack of catering.

Clarkson's suspension was announced in a BBC statement on Tuesday afternoon which said: "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 stats

350 million

Top Gear's estimated worldwide audience

  • 1977 Top Gear began as a local show on BBC Midlands

  • 170 plus episodes in its current format (since 2002)

  • 3 million YouTube subscribers

  • 1.7 million global circulation of Top Gear magazine

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Perry McCarthy, the original Top Gear's stunt driver 'The Stig', said he thought the BBC had taken the show off the air too quickly. "Why take the show off air while they look into it? I just think it's a complete overreaction."

The Sun newspaper, in which Clarkson writes a regular column, quotes him as saying: "I'm having a nice cold pint and waiting for this to blow over." It also quotes a "source close to the star" denying Clarkson punched anyone.

'Difficult decision'

Clarkson and his co-presenters are scheduled to appear in four Top Gear Live stadium shows in Norway at the end of this month. BBC Worldwide confirmed tickets are still on sale.

Other shows are due to take place in Sydney, Australia, in April, as well as several dates in the UK.

Top Gear is one of the BBC's most popular and profitable TV shows, with Jeremy Clarkson appearing on it since 1988. The programme has an estimated global audience of 350 million.

PR consultant Mark Borkowski has said the BBC faces "a difficult decision".

He told 5 live's Wake Up to Money that Clarkson's tweets suggested he "doesn't seem to be worried".

He added: "A lot of TV executives around the world are looking at this fracas thinking 'would we like to get our hands on Jeremy Clarkson?'"

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Media captionJeremy Clarkson made light of the incident joking to reporters that he was off to the job centre

Clarkson was given what he called his "final warning" last May after claims he used a racist word during filming.

Footage leaked to the Daily Mirror appeared to show Clarkson using a racist term while reciting the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe. He later apologised for the incident, which was never broadcast.

The show's executive producer, Andy Wilman, described last year as an "annus horribilis" for the programme.

Top Gear controversies

With Clarkson at its head, Top Gear has been no stranger to controversy.

  • October 2014 - The show's stars and crew had to abandon filming in Argentina amid angry protests over a car number plate that appears to refer to the Falklands War.
  • July 2014 - Ofcom ruled a Burma Special in which Jeremy Clarkson used a racial slur broke broadcasting rules. Clarkson had used the word "slope" as an Asian man crossed a newly built bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand.
  • May 2014 - The programme drew complaints when video footage leaked to the Daily Mirror appeared to show Jeremy Clarkson using a racist term while reciting the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe. The presenter later apologised for the incident - which was never broadcast - in a video statement where he "begged forgiveness".
  • October 2012 - The BBC Trust ruled comments by Clarkson which likened the design of a camper van to people with facial disfigurements breached disability guidelines.
  • January 2012 - Indian diplomats complained about a 90-minute India special in which a car fitted with a toilet in its boot is described by Clarkson as "perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots."
  • February 2011 - The BBC apologised to Mexico after Clarkson and his co-hosts characterised Mexicans as "lazy" and "feckless".

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