Clarkson Deal Sets the Tom Toms Rolling

Motorhome enthusiasts with a GPS device bearing the dulcet tones of Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson now find themselves the owners of a limited edition satellite navigation system.

Sat-nav manufacturers Tom Tom had negotiated a lucrative deal for themselves and the BBC Worldwide service, the commercial arm of the BBC, by arranging for Jeremy Clarkson to do the audio directions on a top of the range Tom Tom system. Through his antics on and off the BBC’s top motoring show Top Gear, Clarkson has become something of a celebrity around the world and the 50,000 products manufactured flew off the shelves.

Remarkably BBC bosses had no idea that the deal was going through until one of them read about it in a newspaper. Director General Mark Thomson immediately put a stop to deal as he believed it compromised the BBC’s stance on forbidding presenters to endorse products commercially. It was too late to stop the products being sold but the BBC diverted their share of the proceeds into the Children in Need charity. A review of the blunder by a BBC committee this week found that conflict of interest was a real issue in the case but it had not been done deliberately. The report said: “On one level the compliance process worked i.e. the editor-in-chief, as the ultimate arbiter, intervened so that the deal did not progress as proposed, but this could have been resolved much earlier if various referrals or different judgements had been made.”

It is not the first time Clarkson or indeed sat-navs have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. Many motorhome insurance claims have been founded on drivers having accidents when being directed down dead ends and impassable streams by the on-board devices. While Clarkson’s colourful turn of phrase is often heard on TV stations across the world, one trembles to think what the broadcaster from Yorkshire sounds like in the front seat of your vehicle!