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Top Gear budget slashed

Four million dollar man: Top gear host Jeremy Clarkson with cut-price co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May.

As Australia gets a new host, Top Gear’s huge UK stunt budget gets cut

General News logo2 Jan 2009

TOP-RATING British motoring TV program Top Gear has had its budget slashed and will have to cut back on the often outrageous stunts and car damage that has been a feature of the program.

At the same time, the Australian version of the program will have a new look this year following the departure of host Charlie Cox, whose persona seemed to alienate the majority of local viewers.

Cox will be replaced by jazz trumpeter and motoring enthusiast James Morrison.

Although Top Gear is BBC2’s highest-rating programs, attracting audiences of up to eight million in Britain, its production costs are high.

Host Jeremy Clarkson last year signed a contract said to be worth $4.2 million a year while co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May reportedly earn more than $500,000 each.

The economic downturn has forced the BBC to cut its overall programming costs by as much as 30 million due to a reported $300 million funding shortfall.

A BBC spokesman said that the 2009 series of Top Gear would be just as exciting as ever, but the program’s executive producer admitted in a humourous blog on a Top gear fan site that the inevitable cuts would have some impact.

The first series of Top Gear Australia also caused headlines in 2008 as a result of car damage bills, with reports that some car companies would be reluctant to provide test vehicles in future.

 center imageDeparting host Charlie Cox (left) said he was quitting the show because of the demands on his time.

He noted that he is a director of 10 companies and the show is not his professional priority.

“My time on Top Gear Australia was very special and it was a fantastic opportunity to be part of launching an extraordinary series,” Cox said.

“Sadly, though, I’ve lived in the UK for the past 19 years and I’m not able to give the time I want to series two. It seems best to leave the show and I wish James all the best in joining the two best blokes in Australian television, Warren Brown and Steve Pizzati.” SBS said that new host James Morrison would bring a deep love of cars, a huge personality and a strong sense of fun to the show.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet ... but I think series two is going to be bigger and better than ever,” said Morrison. “I just hope some of the challenges include playing a chorus of the blues.” In the US, Top Gear has also come under fire from electric sportscar-maker Tesla over a segment that showed a review car suddenly stopping with Clarkson at the wheel and then being pushed into a warehouse for a replacement battery.

Tesla revealed that its onboard computer showed no fault or flat battery, but Top Gear defended its presentation, saying that the car was “videotaped being pushed to show what would have happened if the Roadster had run out of charge”.

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