Former "Top Gear" host Jeremy Clarkson announced that a new motoring show is in the works to rival the iconic program produced by the British Broadcasting Corp. He also claimed that he turned down an offer to return to hosting duties at the BBC, which the organization denies.
According to Victoria Ward of the Telegraph, 55-year-old Clarkson made both comments during an interview with the Sun (paywall). In what Ward described as an "unusual move," the BBC published its own news story to counter Clarkson's assertion.
"I had a meeting with a BBC executive last week and they asked if I'd come back to Top Gear," Clarkson said. "But it was never an option, even with the one million people signing the Bring Back Clarkson petition - for which I was extremely humbled."
Clarkson added that returning to host Top Gear "was never an option" after someone in the BBC compared him to a now-deceased TV presenter accused of being a pedophile.
"Too much has gone on," Clarkson said. "After I'd been compared to Jimmy Savile by someone from the BBC and it was splashed all over a Sunday newspaper, how could I go back? The spotlight would have been on me and the show would end up being neutered."
The outspoken British journalist stated that if he returned to the BBC, "it would be difficult to do anything without interference."
"It would have been impossible to make the show I'd want to make," Clarkson said. "I think they knew this so that's why they gave the job to Chris [Evans] so soon after I met them."
In its response, the BBC named radio host Chris Evans as the new presenter of "Top Gear." The organization also denied claims that it approached Clarkson to come back on the show.
"We haven't offered another Top Gear contract," a BBC spokesman said. "The BBC had placed on record its thanks to Jeremy for his broadcasting on the program and wish him well for the future."
As for the new show, Clarkson told the Sun that his new car show would be unveiled in "weeks." According to James Gill of Radio Times, Clarkson also gave a cryptic warning directed at the new host for Top Gear.
"I hope Chris enjoys running what, for the next couple of weeks, is the world's biggest car show," Clarkson said.
According to John Plunkett and Mark Sweney of the Guardian, there were three broadcasters vying to sign on the popular yet controversial presenter in addition to former "Top Gear" hosts Richard Hammond and James May. They include British broadcaster ITV and on-demand services Netflix and Amazon, which are both based in the United States.
"They have had offers and they are close to making a decision about what they want to do," an industry source said about negotiations.
According to the Guardian, the former presenters and Andy Wilman, Clarkson's long-time friend and former "Top Gear" executive producer, met with Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, last month. Netflix has also considered signing on Clarkson, but some have pointed out the possibility of a subscriber backlash as one of the risks.
"He is a rare thing, a mainstream broadcaster with an edge and that makes him more difficult to handle," a senior broadcasting executive said of Clarkson.
The Guardian reported that none of the broadcasters involved in the negotiations have commented so far on any of the details.
In the meantime, the BBC announced on the Top Gear website that the final series 22 episode featuring Clarkson, Hammond, and May together will air Sunday, June 28, at 8 p.m. on BBC Two; it is expected to be posted online on BBC iPlayer shortly after that broadcast. BBC America has yet to announce an air date for viewers in the United States.