The BBC charter states the BBC aims to inform, educate and entertain. While some may regard Mr Clarkson’s comments on running over cyclists because they don’t pay “road tax” as entertainment (Top Gear BBC2 07/02/2011 21mins 25seconds in). I do not see incitement to murder others on the basis of their choice of transport, as legitimate entertainment. A car is a potentially lethal weapon, a pedestrian or cyclist hit by a motor vehicle is at risk of being killed.
His comments were not only distasteful, they were factually incorrect, road tax does not exist, the roads are paid for by general taxation, therefore we all pay for the roads, whether we own a car or not. Everybody in the UK has the right to use the roads on foot, riding a bicycle or riding a horse (with the exception of motorways), drivers are only permitted to use the roads under licence, driving is not a right.
The owners of many motor vehicles are required to pay Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), a tax based on pollution. However, it is not payable by all motor vehicle owners, there are an increasing number of zero rated motor vehicles. So why has he not suggested that drivers of VW Polos, or Nissan Leafs be driven off the road? If bicycles were required to carry VED tax discs, they would also be taxed at the zero rate.
If he had made suggestions that people be run over on the basis of their race, colour, creed or religion, not only would he have been sacked, he would have probably been arrested. Yet the BBC, by broadcasting Mr Clarkson’s views, endorses the idea that an incitement to murder or seriously injury another person is legitimate, so long as it is based on their choice of transport.
For the record, I do drive (I have held a clean driving licence for over 20 years), I have also held a number of advanced driving qualifications and was a fully qualified driving instructor. The above complaint has been sent to the BBC and I am currently awaiting a response, which I expect to receive within 10 working days.
You may also be interested in comedian Steve Coogan’s views on Top Gear, and he is a huge fan.
Addendum. I have now received the following reply from the BBC:
“Thank you for your feedback about Top Gear broadcast on 6 February 2011. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying.
Jeremy was singling out what he sees as aggressive cyclists, like the one who scraped his car. I don’t think anyone can deny that, as with motorists, there are cyclists out there whose road behaviour is hardly ideal. Jeremy made it clear that in his view cyclists are free to use the roads as long as they behave themselves. Whilst he’d clearly prefer them to defer to motorists, I think his comments stop a long way short of encouraging aggression. Of course Jeremy’s views were balanced out by those of Richard Hammond, who stood up for cyclists.
Personally I feel this is a total cop out and shows that the BBC is not interested in taking responsibility for the comments made by its presenters. While Mr Clarkson may feel threatened by some “aggressive cyclists”, that is no reason to issue an incitement to murder or seriously injury another person based on their choice of transport. It should also be remembered that an estimated that 800 lives a year are lost due to “disrespectful driving“, whereas, on average, only one life a year is lost to reckless cycling. I am not suggesting that reckless cycling is in anyway any more acceptable than reckless driving (neither is acceptable), I am just trying to put the scale of the problem into perspective. Sadly, Mr Clarkson has a tendency to promote the idea that reckless driving is acceptable, and that we should accept death and injury on the roads as a price worth paying.