Jeremy Clarkson sacking killed £500m BBC cash cow, guess who’ll pick up the tab?

THE BBC’S sacking of Jeremy Clarkson was savaged today after an investigation showed the corporation had killed off a £500 million moneyspinner basically because two guys fell out.

The BBC has come under fire for the decision to sack Jeremy Clarkson
The BBC has come under fire for the decision to sack Jeremy Clarkson

Yesterday the publicly funded BBC announced 1,000 jobs were to go due to a £150million shortfall.

But critics were queuing up to ask why a minor scuffle and clash of egos between presenter Jeremy Clarkson and producer Oisin Tymon at a Yorkshire hotel, had resulted in the axing of the world’s most watched factual TV show.

More importantly they were aking where the £40million-a-year which Top Gear has brought in since its relaunch in 2002 was going to come from.

BBC director general Tony Hall told staff they must pay the price of job losses for a growing number of people shunning live television and thereby not paying a licence fee.

But critics believe it just shows how losing a huge cash generator in Mr Clarkson was a blunder by BBC bosses who seemed overly keen to sack him.

Tory MP and long-term critic of the corporation, Andrew Bridgen, went further and said the decision to let Mr Clarkson go was ridiculous in light of the job losses as well as the growing number of taxpayers criminalised for non-payment of TV licences.

Mr Bridgen, who is one of a number of MPs calling for the licence to be dropped, said: “I suggested at the time the BBC will be hit big by losing such a large revenue stream in Jeremy Clarkson.

“The BBC decided to sack Clarkson because they think it’s a price worth paying. But they also want to criminalise thousands of people for not paying their licence fee. Seemingly, they also think that’s a price worth paying.”

Peter Whittle, Ukip’s culture spokesman, said: “Why did they sack him? It was a mistake in that it’s a huge revenue loss for them.

“They possibly didn’t like the fact he was so successful and that Top Gear with him in didn’t fit the BBC’s image.”

Top Gear has been the BBC’s biggest moneyspinner, broadcast in 200 countries worldwide. It also brings in cash from versions made in USA and China and through selling merchandise and from live events.

It is seen as one of few success stories in the corporations aim to make money selling shows abroad.

Out of £5billion it needs to make annually, £3.7bn comes from licence fees, £1bn is made from commercial business, £245m in Government grants and just £72m in other income, which includes overseas broadcasts.

Mr Bridgen said: “BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm, is a joke. It has the task of selling the huge back-catalogue of programmes and only returns 10 per cent.

“That’s billions of pounds worth of programmes the taxpayer has paid for.”

The redundancies, which were announced on Thursday, aim to make back £50m from the cash shortfall, which BBC is blaming on the rise in iPlayer, mobiles and online catch-up meaning less households have televisions.

But it comes after years of complaints of mismanagement by the company.

MPs in February even called for auditors to be brought in to look into BBC waste after a scathing review earlier this year into the company’s spending.

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said: “The National Audit Office must now be given unrestricted access to the BBC if it is to provide assurance that the Corporation is spending money wisely and trading fairly.”

BBC director general Tony Hall has been attacked for the decision at a time of sweeping job cuts
BBC director general Tony Hall has been attacked for the decision at a time of sweeping job cuts

Mr Bridgen has long urged for the BBC to “cut its cloth accordingly”, while Mr Whittle criticised the “huge number of inflated salaries in the BBC”.

The Ukip spokesman also called for a reduction in the licence fee.

He said: “It’s always been Ukip policy that there should be a full review of the licence fee. It’s impossible in this current multi-platform age to heap this charge on people.

“And even worse is it’s still a criminal offence not to pay the fee. It should be a civil offence.”

While the BBC will not go into numbers on how much is generated by Top Gear it insists the company will be able to continue selling the Top Gear back-catalogue of programmes.

Insiders also believe the programme will flourish under new lead presenter Chris Evans.

Regarding the job cuts, a BBC spokesman said: “Despite the progress already made, and the realities of the licence fee being frozen for seven years, a new financial challenge means additional savings must now be found.

“The licence fee income in 2016/17 is now forecast to be 150 million less than it was expected to be in 2011.”

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the broadcasting workers’ union Bectu noted that the cuts would only achieve a third of the savings the BBC wants to achieve.

He said: “We support the idea of standardisation and simplification, but we will have to study the details of the announcement.

“We want to make sure that anyone affected by this is genuinely redeployed.”