Top Fear – Would Jeremy Clarkson’s workplace bullying have been tolerated at the CBC?

Tony Harrison - Jeremy Clarkson and James May Top Gear presenters  -

Tony Harrison - Jeremy Clarkson and James May Top Gear presenters -

BBC’s Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson was let go due to workplace bullying. How does the BBC’s response to workplace bullying compare to the CBC’s? 

I find it reassuring when an office bully gets what’s coming to them. More often than not that means getting removed from their workplace.

So I must admit I was happy to hear that the BBC took the bold move not to renew Jeremy Clarkson’s contract with Top Gear. This came after a horrible incident where he assaulted a producer of the show in a North Yorkshire Hotel because he wasn’t provided with ‘steak and chips’ after a day of filming.  

The incident left me wondering why the CBC hadn’t taken a similarly bold stance earlier this year when dealing with Jian Ghomeshi.

Jeremy Clarkson was a bully

Top Gear is one of the BBC’s most popular shows worldwide. Clarkson’s on air chemistry with his co-hosts and cheeky demeanour are very popular with the show’s wide fan base. 

In short, the show is/was a moneymaker for the BBC, to the tune of about £50 million a year.

But the BBC still decided not to renew Clarkson’s contract, despite a petition of 1-million Brits asking the BBC to keep him on, as well as the British Prime Minister and countless other celebrities coming to his defence. 

But then again, this wasn’t the first time Clarkson has been a bully in the workplace nor was it his first time causing a controversy for the BBC.

He once called HIV a "pathetic virus” and said that the BBC’s hiring policy pushed for the hiring of "black Muslim lesbians" and even once threatened to execute striking workers in front of their families.  

He has also used racial slurs against Mexicans, Asians, African Americans and Indians on air.

But how did the defiant Clarkson commemorate his termination? Well, with a star-studded party, of course.

The BBC took decisive action against a bully

Here was the reasoning of former BBC Trust Chair Sir Michael Lyons about the BBC’s decision from his interview with The Guardian.

“I put myself firmly beside those who believe that this would be a rather odd moment in the history of the BBC and the United Kingdom to overlook gross bullying when we are still uncovering the cost that we paid as a nation for turning a blind eye to various forms of bullying in the past,” said Lyons.

But now, without Clarckson, Lyons said that the Trust had a ‘”stronger framework’ around the commercial side of the BBC and said there were fewer “misgivings” among producers about the influence of commercial considerations on programme choices.”

In other words, now that the BBC has made the statement that bullying will not be tolerated; they are better prepared to deal with workplace bullying issues in the future.

This is important because, as Julia Baird of the Canberra Times points out, “Producers are often particularly susceptible to the big egos of on-air stars, and get blamed and yelled at when things go wrong. The tales of some of the behaviour of the dinosaurs of broadcasting are legendary.”

Lack of leadership at the CBC

CBC Vancouver - Wanderin'-The-Corridors -  kris krüg -

CBC Vancouver - Wanderin'-The-Corridors - kris krüg -

Does all this controversy remind you of anything? Maybe a certain CBC Radio host who was also proven to be a workplace bully?

I am of course talking about Jian Ghomeshi, who is currently entangled in a complex case involving sexual assault and harassment allegations going back years. 

Also going back years was the CBC’s cover-up mentality for Ghomeshi’s bad behaviour in the workplace. In fact, even now the CBC are falling short of a full and comprehensive investigation.

While many of the accusations against Ghomeshi concern incidents outside of the workplace, there are many others that took place at the CBC. Only no one knew about them until years later, when it was far too late for far too many assaulted women.  

This is because complaints against Ghomeshi were either suppressed or not properly dealt with –all for the sake of protecting one of the CBC’s biggest stars.  

While the BBC was willing to take a bold stand against workplace bullying, the CBC took the more cowardly cover-up route when it came to their employee safety.  

No comparison between the BBC and CBC

In the end the BBC comes out looking modern, principled and a good employer –while the CBC looks just the opposite.

I hope the folks over at the CBC are watching the Clarkson affair and taking notes right now about how to properly manage a workplace.