BBC criticised for silence on cost of Top Gear stunts
Top Gear has shunted straight into a row after its series of extravagant stunts in Belfast this week.
The Beeb is also facing criticism after refusing to give any details on how much licence payers’ money was splashed out on the daredevil escapades.
But a former presenter of the programme from Northern Ireland has branded critics “humourless” and asked: “What’s not to love?”
Controversial Top Gear frontman Jeremy Clarkson was among those who spent hours filming at the city’s docks area for the programme this week.
Their madcap stunts included firing a Renault Twingo into the sea, drag racing and hoisting a vehicle to the top of one of Harland and Wolff's famous twin gantry cranes, Samson.
The Beeb has this week batted away media inquiries about the show’s content or how much was spent in the process.
Its stance has prompted DUP MP Gregory Campbell to challenge the corporation to come clean on costs.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth, meanwhile, criticised the Top Gear team claiming it appeared to have gone out of its way to be as crass and juvenile as possible. Ex-presenter Jason Barlow, who is from Co Down, said he felt such shows did not come over to Northern Ireland often enough.
“I used to present a programme called Wrong Car Right Car. It was a reality format show filmed across the UK and they used to never go over to Belfast, which I always complained about until we ended up going over to film an episode in my hometown of Bangor,” Mr Barlow, who is currently editor-at-large of Top Gear magazine, said.
“I think you would have to be rather humourless not to appreciate the presence of them in Belfast.
“It is one of the biggest, most watched programmes in the world. What’s not to love?
“I have a vague idea of the story line but in true Top Gear tradition, there are all these grand plans which might not always come off, but that is always part of the charm.”
However, Mr Barlow admitted he was not a fan of attempts by presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May to imitate the Ulster accent.
“Jeremy has a go at doing it every time he sees me and James May, too, for that matter,” he said.
The wrecking of vehicles for the show has not impressed Friends of the Earth campaigner Declan Allison.
“The wanton destruction of tens of thousands of pounds worth of machinery impresses no-one. It’s a wasteful extravagance and, in the middle of a global recession, in very poor taste,” he said.
Mr Campbell, a former Stormont Culture Minister, said he believes BBC licence payers have a right to know how much of their cash was spent funding Top Gear’s Belfast stunts.
“The programme does divide opinion — some people think it’s quite informative and humourous while others think it is so reckless as to be downright dangerous,” he said.
“I think the BBC should reveal what the total cost of the filming was. Once that is revealed people would be able to make a judgment on whether they thought it was worthwhile.”