Top Gear co-host may not be a woman, says BBC Two boss

Kim Shillinglaw/Chris Evans

Shillinglaw called the former TFI host a “brilliant” and “wise” man who “had an awful lot of ups and downs in his career”.

BBC Two boss Kim Shillinglaw has played down new Top Gear presenter Chris Evans’ assertion that the show would return with a female co-host.

On Wednesday, Evans claimed that one of his co-hosts would be female: “I can confirm that definitely, 100 per cent,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

But later Shillinglaw said there would be “no gender diktats” on the show.

She said it was being considered, but added: “What I would say is, it will be about what’s right for the show.”

“It has always been a very male world hasn’t it?” Shillinglaw told Steve Hewlett on BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show.

“I think it’s a part of thinking about how we could do things differently, to get a lot more spontaneity in to the show.”

“I really care about women on television. I really care how that sits in terms of the channel mix as a whole on BBC Two,” she said

But added: “I have never in my life thought about an individual show in terms of gender dictats and I certainly wouldn’t start doing that now.”

Media captionChris Evans told the BBC’s One Show the co-host slot was open to anyone with “a real appetite for cars”

Like Shillinglaw, Evans has insisted that any female presenter would be chosen “not for the sake of it”.

Speaking about forthcoming auditions for Top Gear hosts he told the BBC’s One Show anyone from around the world with “a real appetite for cars” was welcome to apply, whether they were “famous people” or not.

“If you’re up for it, we want to hear from you,” said the Radio 2 DJ, “but you’ve got to know about cars”.

Evans said the hosts could be “male, female, young or old, it doesn’t matter” and suggested the three-host format would not necessarily return.

Classic Car Show host Jodie Kidd and Formula One presenter Suzi Perry have both been tipped for the role, alongside Evans – effectively replacing co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond, who quit the show in the wake of Jeremy Clarkson’s sacking.

Jodie Kidd and Suzi Perry are being linked to the Top Gear role

Clarkson’s contract was not renewed by the BBC after he punched a Top Gear producer in March.

Speaking on the Media Show, Shillinglaw confirmed that May and Hammond had considered returning to the show, but turned down the BBC’s offer last week.

“In the end a deal was offered to them and they felt that deal wasn’t quite right for them. You know what, that’s absolutely their choice,” said the BBC2 controller.

She said the offer was made to Evans when those discussions came to an end.

“The important thing was there weren’t multiple conversations going on at any one time. We felt we wanted to do this right and do this respectfully.

“Everyone as far as I am aware has conducted themselves with real grace and thoughtfulness.”

Evans, who has signed a three-year deal to host and produce the BBC Two show, will also continue with his Breakfast Show slot on BBC Radio 2, and is reported to be earning £5m from the Top Gear deal.

Top Gear is watched by 350 million viewers worldwide, with overseas sales worth an estimated £50m a year.

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