Jeremy Clarkson and the BBC: Mark Borkowski on the corporation's latest comms crisis
Remember this new word: ‘voyeurgasm’ – translated as the joy of watching a media storm meltdown on all channels.
Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended by the BBC
Crisis and Clarkson fit hand in glove. He is a man resolutely himself, much loved and widely loathed. So, let's mutter the unsayable – it will be a sad day when Clarkson packs away his webbed driving gloves. This time the Marmite brand has crossed the BBC's proverbial line once and for all, breaching another BBC guideline after a 'fracas' with a producer.
Crisis comms demands a low profile, but Clarkson is unable to pull on his Second World War helmet and duck beneath the parapet. Like Farage and Katie Hopkins, his authenticity is his own enemy. He can't button up – he says it as he sees it. To the liberal media he is vile and brutish; to his fans he is a mischievous rogue and the last politically incorrect totem. Clarkson’s value as a brand has managed to soar because of this and despite his critics and the headlines. Like Madonna and Diana, he has managed to attain single word ubiquity. No mean feat for an overweight, middle-aged, nicotine-stained baby boomer.
Clarkson straddles both the new and old world media, dominating tabloid and broadsheet headlines whilst simultaneously spiking surging Twitter trends. This makes for an uncomfortable BBC dilemma as, like many before him, the personality has become bigger than the corporation. The BBC is the engorged grand dame of political correctness. Will it harm the Clarkson marque? Aided by the forces of social media, Clarkson's value increases.
As the storm rages Clarkson chooses to use his Twitter account with typical flourish, bantering with his usual bold lip and keeping control of his own story. As waves of speculation keep the media fuelled, fans amass signatures on petitions demanding his presence on screen, and rival broadcasters fantasise about snatching him.
Sadly the Clarkson fracas underlines the internecine war among liberals, who attempt to regulate political discourse. Many might suggest he is an anachronism. After all, we are at a dawn of new boundaries where the barbarian will become less marketable. Sadly, they all miss the point of contemporary currency where the best-selling computer and console entertainment is Grand Theft Auto.
The bigger question is how does the BBC operate in these challenging times? Is its constitution fit for purpose for the social media age? Finding a format to replace Top Gear will take years, and this is its dilemma. For Clarkson all publicity is good publicity; for the BBC it's another ball-ache and very serious challenge.
Some say Clarkson is a TV god, but there are lessons he might heed from Greek mythology. Broteas, the ugly hunter and son of Tantalus, was fool enough to think that he was invulnerable so he threw himself into the fire thinking that the flames would not burn him. He died.