Usually, media are the carriers of information for the PR messages. But sometimes media alone are the cause of the (inter)national news and massive coverage. This week brought Jeremy Clarkson on the agenda when the Top Gear presenter was suspended by BBC after allegedly punching a producer, Oisin Tymon. In the same time, there is a huge storm over the case of a major Polish TV news presenter who is accused of the sexual harassment of his female coworkers. These cases pose the questions about the role of PR in the crisis situation of a media outlet and how this crisis affects the individuals involved?
Coincidently, the guest speaker of this Thursday’s Harrow Conversations at the University of Westminster was the Director of Communications at BBC, John Shield. Naturally, the Skype interview with Shield was very much focused on the Clarkson suspension. Top Gear is one of the biggest BBC brands and the major earner for the broadcaster which equals a huge number of fans; mostly host’s fans. That being the case, although Clarkson is under investigation following reports he hit his producer, it seems BBC has more to worry about in terms of a reputation than the Top Gear star himself.
According to Daily Mail, Jeremy Clarkson is reported to be ‘intensely relaxed’ about his BBC suspension, he’s making jokes on social media and has a huge support; Prime Minister hopes the case can be ‘sorted out’ while ‘Bring Back Clarkson’ petition already has more than 750,000 online signatures. In the same time, BBC faces fines for failing to deliver a full series and the anger of millions of viewers. John Shield, who admits he likes and watches the show, said that BBC needs to establish the facts in order to undertake further actions. Being very careful in his comments, he did not make any judgments and confirmed that ‘media storms’ hit the fan every week; it’s just the person of Clarkson and the popularity of a show which made it so controversial.
Top Gear is the BBC’s goose that lays the golden eggs and that is why it is unlikely Jeremy Clarkson will be sacked. On the other hand, his dismissal could be a good image move for the national broadcaster which is expected to represent a certain level of professionalism and decency. To me, the irony of the media is that everyone debates whether BBC will kill its profitable TV brand rather than focus on the behavior of the man who has had some other controversies under his belt. But maybe this is how it works, as Tom Wadsworth points out in his article for PR Week.