Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson's contract with the BBC, due to expire at the end of March, will not be renewed, the government broadcaster has confirmed.
BBC Director General Tony Hall said today that an investigation into an incident between Clarkson and producer Oisin Tymon has left him with “little alternative” but to bring an end to the network's relationship with the Top Gear star.
"For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations," Hall said.
The decision comes two weeks after Clarkson was suspended over the physical altercation, which is alleged to have seen Clarkson throw a punch at Tymon after “20 minutes of sustained and prolonged” verbal abuse over a late dinner.
The BBC has also confirmed it will continue the Top Gear series, although details of its format are still to be revealed.
Reports over the past week have claimed the network has already approached the popular UK radio host Chris Evans to take over Clarkson's role.
The radio presenter told his audience today however that he has not been approached, describing the reports as “absolute nonsense”.
Evans is well-known as a motoring enthusiast with a sizeable car collection, and has been an occasional guest on Top Gear.
A poll undertaken by the British Press Association this week found that Evans is the preferred choice among viewers to replace Clarkson.
It is also still to be confirmed if Clarkson's co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May will remain involved with Top Gear, although both have continuing commitments with other BBC projects.
James May, speaking with press outside his home today, said that he does not wish to speak in detail about whether he will stay with the series.
He added only that the “package” of he, Hammond and Clarkson “works for very complicated reasons, that a lot of people don't fully understand. That will require a lot of careful thought.” (This comment has been misquoted in other reports.)
May's agent added:
"James' involvement in that future requires much thought, deliberation and conversation between many people, and at this moment further speculation on that is not useful."
Hammond posted on his Twitter page this morning:
"Gutted at such a sad end to an era. We're all three of us idiots in our different ways but it's been an incredible ride together."
BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob has confirmed the network wants Hammond and May to stay.
Jeremy Clarkson has yet to comment on today's decision, although he has told press: "All I will say is that I wish people will leave Ois (Oisin) alone, because none of this is his fault".
BBC Director General Tony Hall's complete statement follows.
It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts and after personally meeting both Jeremy and Oisin Tymon.
I am grateful to Ken MacQuarrie for the thorough way he has conducted an investigation of the incident on 4th March. Given the obvious and very genuine public interest in this I am publishing the findings of his report. I take no pleasure in doing so. I am only making them public so people can better understand the background. I know how popular the programme is and I also know that this decision will divide opinion. The main facts are not disputed by those involved.
I want to make three points.
First – The BBC is a broad church. Our strength in many ways lies in that diversity. We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.
Second – This has obviously been difficult for everyone involved but in particular for Oisin. I want to make clear that no blame attaches to him for this incident. He has behaved with huge integrity throughout. As a senior producer at the BBC he will continue to have an important role within the organisation in the future.
Third – Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC. I have always personally been a great fan of his work and Top Gear. Jeremy is a huge talent. He may be leaving the BBC but I am sure he will continue to entertain, challenge and amuse audiences for many years to come.
The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016. This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I have asked Kim Shillinglaw to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months. I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series.
A timeline of Clarkson's blunders
Clarkson said in a newspaper column that a bus driver who doesn't let cars go first in traffic is an "inconsiderate jumped-up little Hitler bastard" who should be "shot in the middle of his face."
Clarkson describes the Daihatsu Copen roadster as “a bit gay, yes, very ginger beer” - the latter being common rhyming slang for “queer”.
Clarkson reprimanded for supping a gin and tonic while behind the wheel of a Toyota HiLux during the show's arctic expedition.
Clarkson joked on air that truck drivers "murder prostitutes”, in reference to convicted killer Steve Wright.
Dismissed the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a "one-eyed Scottish idiot" during a press conference. Brown has vision in only one eye.
Clarkson said that the BBC had taken to hiring black, Muslim lesbians to offset the number of white heterosexuals in its ranks.
In speaking of distracted driving: “Honestly, the burka doesn't work. I was in a cab in Piccadilly the other day when a woman in a full burka crossing the road in front of me tripped over the pavement, went head over heels and up it came, red g-string and stockings.”
Clarkson referred to a Ferrari as a “special needs” car, a “simpleton”.
Clarkson forced to apologise to the Mexican ambassador to the UK after disparaging comments about the Mexican people on Top Gear.
Viewers complained about Clarkson's remarks about India's clothing, trains, food and history.
Clarkson was forced into a apology after appearing to mumble the N-word as he while singing the nursery rhyme Eeny Meeny Miny Moe during filming. The scene was not aired.
Referred to an Asian person as a 'slope' during the show's Vietnam special.
Jeremy Clarkson caused offence this time by driving through Argentina using the number plate “H982 FKL”, believed to be in reference to the 1982 Falklands War conflict. The BBC insisted the plate was a coincidence.
“To suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate, or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original, is completely untrue,” Top Gear producer Andy Wilman said.
Reporters outside my house: if you're going to hang around on small streets with your car engines idling all day, don't buy a bloody diesel.— James May (@MrJamesMay) March 25, 2015
Gutted at such a sad end to an era. We're all three of us idiots in our different ways but it's been an incredible ride together.— Richard Hammond (@RichardHammond) March 25, 2015
Oisin Tymon: "He [Clarkson] is a unique talent & I am aware that many will be sorry his involvement in the show should end in this way."— BBC Ents News Team (@BBCNewsEnts) March 25, 2015