Tuesday evening saw the BBC suspend Jeremy Clarkson following what has been labelled as a ‘fracas with a producer on the Show’. Reports suggest the presenter allegedly hit the producer. The suspension means that Top Gear will not air on Sunday evening, with the show currently scheduled to broadcast two more episodes in this, its 22nd season. No details of the incident have been provided and the BBC was quick to highlight that Clarkson’s suspension is pending an investigation, but with the show having been in hot water for most of 2014, could this latest episode spell the end for what has been an iconic programme in the UK and the world?

Only time will tell, but after 22 seasons, the BBC now faces a catch-22.

Not the first time Clarkson lands in hot water

In May 2014, Clarkson appeared in a home made video apologising for the use of a racist remark made during the recital of the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe. While the footage was never aired and was in actual fact leaked to the Daily Mirror, it proved to be one of several incidents involving the show and its presenter during the course of last year. Clarkson was also criticised for using a racial slur in the show’s Burma special, before the crew were attacked in Argentina following the use of a number plate that appeared to make reference to the 1982 Falklands War.

In the home video Clarkson apologised for the leaked footage, insisted that he would never use such a term and went to highlight that he had been given his ‘final warning’ by the BBC.

Considering this, the Television network now needs to decide what the outcome of their star-studded show will be. The fact the final episodes have been dropped would certainly indicate the BBC is taking the matter very seriously.

However, they will need to weigh their options carefully before taking the final step, because Top Gear is without doubt one of their largest sources of revenue alongside Doctor Who. The motoring show began in 1977 and ran for over 20 years, Clarkson took over as presenter in 1989 and remained in place until 2000, during which time the programme was a straight-forward car show.

Following Clarkson’s departure, the show was cancelled in 2001 due to a severe drop in ratings. However, it was then revamped and rebooted in 2002 under its current format, with the trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May at the helm, and has since reached unimaginable heights.

Top Gear: World’s most watch factual TV show

In 2013, the Guinness World Book of Records certified that Top Gear has become the World’s most watched factual television programme acknowledging that their audience stretches to an astonishing 212 territories. That speaks volumes for the money that Top Gear generates, not only in the UK but worldwide for the BBC. While the show is now broadcast live simultaneously around the globe, countries are also paying for the privilege to broadcast reruns of episodes in the off-season.

Incredibly, this is not the only revenue generated, the presenters regularly travel around the world to put on live shows in front of sell-out crowds for their Top Gear Live format.

Now the BBC faces an almost impossible decision: whether or not to end its relationship with Jeremy Clarkson. The internet has already started to have its say, since the incident involving the producer was reported late on Tuesday evening, a petition labelled ‘Bring Back Clarkson’ has already garnered nearly 300,000 signatures, while #bringbackclarkson is trending on Twitter. However, that may not be enough to save Clarkson, with pressure from media outlets and campaigners reaching an all-time high following the latest controversy.

Should the BBC ultimately stick to its guns, after the final warning handed out in May, and choose to cut the 54-year-old loose, it could prove to backfire massively from an economic point of view. Without Clarkson at the wheel, Top Gear would in all likelihood struggle to stay on the road. The evidence is in plain sight for all to see given what happened when the presenter first left the show in 2000. The end of Top Gear would mark a major change in television history, having been one of the most entertaining programmes ever since its reboot in 2002. Unfortunately, this time around, the BBC may not have a choice but to shoot itself in the foot in order to maintain credibility with its license payers.