A few twitter followers of mine say that I should not feel sick that Jeremy Clarkson is trousering a £5 million windfall from the BBC. After all he is a 10 out of 10 politically incorrect fellow so why should he not screw the Beeb? Well up to a point.
Yes Clarkson sounds off in an entertaining manner. I do not always agree with what he says but since he infuriates the sort of folks with whom I always disagree I guess he has to go down as one of life’s good guys. On matters such as global warming he is bang on the money.
Top Gear is pretty watchable and so I cannot object to his £500,000 salary. It is market forces. He can command that so fair game to him. I believe in market forces.
But this deal is different. Five years ago Clarkson and his producer set up Bedder 6 to exploit the global merchandising value of Top Gear. The BBC has a 50% stake in Bedder 6. Now in return for signing another 3 year deal Clarkson is selling his stake for £5 million. Bedder made a pre-tax profit of £15.2 million last year but going forward it is going to have to give a slug of that to Clarkson and his fellow presenters in return for them promoting the brand.
So maybe it makes a few million quid less this year – it will be interesting to see if details are released – shall we say £12 million or (after tax £9 million). In which case Clarkson’s 25% stake should generate a post tax profit of £2.25 million. Given that Clarkson is on the hook for another three years the BBC will make a good return. Of course after three years Clarkson might leave or renegotiate in which case the BBC would be screwed. Top Gear without Clarkson and his team is probably worth not a lot.
But on balance the BBC has got a good deal. Clarkson will make a fortune but that is how capitalism works – all power to his elbow. Except that the BBC gets an enormous state subsidy and is thus able to speculate on projects such as Bedder 6 in a way that the private sector cannot. It crowds out innovation and competes on an uneven playing field. If it makes a killing from activities such as this how about it becomes a real venture capitalist and the license fee is scrapped? I am not sure why the poll tax we all pay should be used for seed capital for its commercial activities. To me that is as wrong as using it for funding the bloated BBC bureaucracy, its Pravda like news service or all those tedious BBC27 channels that nobody watches.
I hope that the anger of the left in seeing a demon like Clarkson trousering such a huge sum might make those who defend the BBC to the hilt start to look again at how this monster is funded.