The BBC has reprimanded its star presenter Chris Evans for his repeated “inappropriate” references on his BBC Radio2 breakfast programme to TFI Friday, the show he recorded for the commercial broadcaster Channel 4.
The verbal warning to Evans over “issues connected with commercial products” comes ahead of the momentous launch of the revamped Top Gear in May, which he will present as the replacement for Jeremy Clarkson.
The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) was called in to investigate a listener complaint last October after Evans made several on-air references to a forthcoming series of TFI Friday, which was made for C4 by Ginger Productions, a production company which Evans founded before selling it to the STV media group for £225m in 2000, making a reported £75m from the deal. He is no longer involved with the company.
Evans was summoned to a meeting by BBC radio management and given a verbal warning about the rules for mentioning commercial products and “the editorial justifications for mentioning them”.
The episode places additional pressure on the star presenter at a critical time in his career. The success of the new Top Gear is extremely important to the BBC, both in terms of the broadcaster’s public reputation as it goes through its Charter renewal process and because of the format’s commercial value. Evans has recently been engaged in heavy promotional activity for the new show, which is reported to have had considerable problems during production of the new series.
Meet the new Top Gear presenters
Meet the new Top Gear presenters
1/7 Chris Evans
Chris Evans said of his new Top Gear gang: “We really do have a bit of everything for everyone. A fellow lifelong petrolhead from the other side of the pond in Matt; a fearless speed-demon in the irrepressible and effervescent Sabine; the encyclopedic, funny and wonderfully colourful character that is EJ; Chris, one of the world’s top no-nonsense car reviewers; and Rory, who simply blew me away in his audition and fully deserves his place on the team"
2/7 Matt LeBlanc
LeBlanc, best known for playing Joey in Friends, set the fastest celebrity lap time in the reasonably priced car on the former Top Gear hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. He recently presented the standalone spin-off Top Gear: The Races, where he reminded fans of the most memorable moments from the past 22 series. He will be Top Gear's first non-British host.
2015 Getty Images
3/7 The Stig
The Stig, clearly not wanting to be left out of today’s announcement, sent the following reply via electronic communication: “-.-. .... . .-- .. . --..-- / .-- . .----. .-. . / .... --- -- . .-.-.-“
4/7 Sabine Schmitz
Sabine Schmitz is a German racing driver who is already well known to fans of Top Gear. She grew up in her parents’ hotel just 300m from the legendary Nurburgring track and has spent her life surrounded by cars and racing. She became the first woman to win the prestigious Nurburgring 24 hours in 1996 and repeated the feat a year later. Sabine became known as the ‘World’s fastest taxi driver’ by driving passengers around the track in a BMW M5 and has since presented several motoring shows for German TV. She has appeared on Top Gear several times over the years, becoming a firm favourite with viewers. She still races successfully today and runs her own race team
5/7 Eddie Jordan
Eddie Jordan is an Irish former racing driver, team owner and entrepreneur whom a host of drivers owe their breaks to Eddie as a champion of young talent including Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine. Having suffered a number of major accidents whilst competing in racing himself Eddie retired to set up his Jordan team in 1980. The team went on to be champions in Formula 3 with Johnny Herbert in 1987, Formula 3000 in 1989 with Jean Alesi - and in 1990 Eddie established Jordan Grand Prix and entered Formula 1. He sold Jordan Grand Prix in January 2005 and has since developed a portfolio of business interests as well as presenting the BBC's coverage of Formula 1. He has been inducted into the Irish Motorsport Hall of Fame and in 2012 he was awarded an honorary OBE by Her Majesty The Queen in recognition of his services to charity and motor racing
2015 Getty Images
6/7 Rory Reid
Rory Reid is an award-winning journalist of eighteen years specialising in cars. Rory has written and presented for the likes of CNET UK, where he launched the company's popular Car Tech channel, receiving a prestigious Association of Online Publishers (AOP) award for ‘Best Use of Video’ in the process. Rory has featured in a number of car-focused television shows and had a starring role in the Gadget Geeks series on Sky 1, where he reviewed cars and consumer tech. He was also a presenter on the hugely successful Fast Furious & Funny YouTube channel. He is editor-in-chief of Recombu, specialising in producing car reviews
7/7 Chris Harris
Chris Harris is probably best known for his popular YouTube channel, Chris Harris on Cars which he launched in 2014, established with the help longtime friend Neil Carey. It has already amassed over a quarter of a million subscribers and the content has been viewed over 20 million times. Chris began his career in motoring journalism at UK-based Autocar magazine, becoming their official road-test editor. This gave him the opportunity to do some “racing and skidding” before starting a website for fast cars the week Lehman Brothers went under in 2008, which obviously ended badly. He then looked to solve his new found indebtedness at Evo magazine and then became a member of the Pistonheads.com crew, as well as a regular feature on YouTube’s DRIVE channel
Evans hosted TFI Friday from when it launched on the commercial broadcaster in 1996 until 2000, although guest presenters were introduced at the end of that run. The show returned to the channel last October for a “20th anniversary” series.
The raucous hit show was originally written by Danny Baker and was the subject of controversy for on-air swearing. It also attracted some of the biggest stars in the entertainment industry. The final series began on 16 October with U2 performing at the beginning and end of the first episode. Quentin Tarantino was among the guests for the final edition on New Years’ Eve.
As he prepared to focus on the major challenge of presenting Top Gear late last year, Evans spoke of his emotional attachment to the C4 show as it approached a final series. “I never got to say goodbye to it as I left when there were still 10 shows to go. Let’s call it closure. This just feels like the right time, many of us who were involved with ‘the scene’ at that time are back doing what we love and people seem to like it.”
But the BBC complaints unit said that the presenter had gone too far in his repeated references to the commercial show on his popular breakfast programme, which has an audience of 9.4 million.
“As the producers of TFI Friday profit from the sale to Channel 4, it comes within the scope of the editorial guidelines dealing with references to commercial products, organisations and services,” said the ECU in its ruling. “The references to TFI Friday were largely promotional in character, and more numerous than was editorially justifiable.”Reuse content