It’s time to ask a few questions about the BBC’s re-launch of Top Gear in a post-COP21 world. Top Gear has achieved the status of a cult show, and is one of the most widely, watched television programmes on the planet. It also happens to make a considerable amount of money for the BBC.
The problem is that this light and laddish offering is hugely influential and no doubt the auto and oil industries are not unhappy to see their products on it. It’s effectively a vast free advert for the vehicle and oil industries.
The elephant in the studio is that the oil and vehicle industries are precisely those that need to be transformed for the sake of the earth and its inhabitants. The days of mindless petrol-headery should be numbered but the BBC doesn’t seem to have noticed.
But in fact the BBC knows all this. The Corporation puts out some splendid environmental programmes. And precisely because of that, there is a weird disconnect going on at Bush House. A programme is aired one day on how fossil fuels are changing the climate and then on another day Top Gear comes across as if the climate crisis didn’t exist. Frankly, Aunty Beeb sometimes doesn’t seem to know which planet she’s living on.
Jeremy Clarkson has gone, but not before he took the Mickey out of environmentalism and electric cars. According to George Monbiot of the Guardian his tactics in criticising electric vehicles were simply dishonest. His article paints a damning picture of an organisation which doesn’t observe its own ethical code.
It will be very interesting to see if Top Gear changes its tune under its new anchor Matt LeBlanc. The car companies, oil people and petrol-heads will be hoping it doesn’t change. Wiser heads will be looking for a more critical offering. If it’s not forthcoming it will be high time to hold the BBC to account.
Chris Chatteris is a freelance journalist based in South Africa.