Trials over ‘Top Gear’

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Trials over ‘Top Gear’

BMW M6 Gran Coupe, Nissan GT-R and Bentley Continental GT V8S.

We’ve heard the joke about cars and men. Most men can identify the exact name of the model. They know that the BMW M6 Gran Coupe is completely different from the BMW M6 or the MBW M6 Coupe. But many women know them as “foreign cars.” They are considered to be relatively indifferent about the various models of cars.

Although we may not know the names of these exotic vehicles, it is still amazing to see a car running across the Australian meadow and driving 4,000 cows into a barn. A race on a mining road is also breathtaking.

“Top Gear” is a BBC television series about cars. The variety program is watched by 350 million people in more than 200 countries. The show is so widely popular that when a BBC reporter visited a remote village in Peru, the first thing that villagers asked him upon learning that he was from the United Kingdom was, “Who is the Stig?” - a reference to the show’s anonymous test driver in a helmet. The program made 180 million pounds ($265 million) in 2012 alone. In many countries, people associate the U.K. with “Top Gear.”

But recently, the BBC suspended broadcast of “Top Gear” because of a controversy over one of the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson. He is known for his tongue-in-cheek style of speech. Last weekend, he returned to his hotel after filming an episode and lost his temper when he could not order steak. At first, he was blamed for punching the producer.

When BBC executives learned of the incident, they canceled the show that was to be broadcast on March 13. Clarkson had already gotten an ultimatum for using a racial slur last year. While the BBC seemed ready to fire him, it is still contemplating what to do. Clarkson has been the face of “Top Gear” since 1988, aside from a few years when the show was off air.

Is the incident serious enough to fire him? Will “Top Gear” be the same without Clarkson? What if he starts a similar program on another channel willing to pay him handsomely? The BBC is the U.K.’s prestigious public service broadcaster, but Clarkson may be an even bigger and influential celebrity than the BBC itself. So should the BBC bear with Clarkson’s controversial behavior and consequent damage to its prestige? These are questions the BBC is considering.

We often have to choose between the lesser of the evils, and that’s the BBC’s dilemma is now.

*The author is a London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, March 14, Page 30


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