Jeremy Clarkson Dropped by the BBC


3 mins

Posted on 27 Mar 2015

Jeremy Clarkson’s unfortunate ‘fracas’ with producer Oisin Tymon of the BBC’s Top Gear programme has been and continues to be hot news. Quite why a TV personality should figure so highly in the hearts and minds of so many is difficult to fathom by those who dislike what, if being kind, could be described as his blokey charm and wit. 

Over 1 million people signed a “Bring Back Clarkson” petition in his support. Various media reports talk of his suspension, dismissal or sacking, and his previous final written warning. These are all terms consistent with employment status. But was he ever an employee of the BBC? As a valuable commercial commodity or brand, his contractual status is more likely that of a contractor where his services are provided via a limited company. Alternative contractual arrangements do not of course prevent the inclusion of appropriate terms dealing with the conduct of the person supplied to carry out the services. 

The BBC has decided not to renew the contract which is about to expire anyway, so strictly speaking it is not a case of “sacking” him. Then again if he were an employee, the non-renewal of a fixed term contract would amount to a dismissal for unfair dismissal purposes. Contractual rights under the commercial agreement will provide legal remedies for Mr Clarkson if the BBC has acted unlawfully. If he had been an employee then dismissal for gross misconduct was probably the only option for the BBC given the circumstances and previous conduct.

Should he have faced any form of action? Was he treated too harshly? His legions of fans are clear in their opinion. We forgive a genius for foibles, eccentricities or irrational behaviour. Mr Clarkson is no Mozart, Michelangelo or Einstein. No doubt a very talented journalist and presenter yes, but is he so superhuman that different rules apply to him compared to the man or woman on the proverbial Clapham omnibus?

In the ordinary commercial world, employers face the predicament of what to do with the talented employee or manager who is found to have misbehaved but is so valuable the organisation cannot afford to lose them. Creative solutions can be found but what of the rights of others or the values of the organisation? Then again, famous people like Mr Clarkson are also entitled to be dealt with fairly and within the law. Which begs the question - what standard do we apply to his conduct under his contractual arrangements? Or is there more to this than just his contract?

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