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 BBC v HarperCollins

BBC v HarperCollins – The Stig to be Unmasked?

August 31, 2010

The IPKAT reported recently that the BBC is preparing to take the publishing company HarperCollins to court over a book that reveals the identity of the Stig from Top Gear. The Stig never removes his helmet on the show, concealing his identity. The identity of the Stig’s character has been kept a secret for the past eight years, since 2003. Confidentiality agreements were signed to stop those involved leaking this secret to the public and ruin the air of mystery that surrounds the character of the Stig. Revealing who the Stig was could spoil the viewer’s enjoyment of the BBC2 program. Only Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May and a few of the show’s presenters are said to know who the Stig is.

HarperCollins has expressed its disappointment that the BBC has “chosen to spend licence fee payers’ money to suppress this book” and says it will vigorously defend the perfectly legitimate right of this individual to tell his story. In a blog post on the Top Gear website by Andy Wilman, he argues against this, saying the corporation “has the right to spend money on protecting the intellectual property it created, because the truth is that all that stuff – the Stig, the Tardis, the Blue Peter dog – does belong to the licence payer, and not to some opportunists who think they can come along and take a slice when they feel like it”.

Before now there has been a fair amount of speculation over who the Stig really was, and several newspapers conjectured recently that his identity might be the former Formula Three driver Ben Collins. This came about after he decided to publish an autobiography about his life. However, the BBC still claims that the identity of the Stig remains a secret. The first Stig left the show after his identity had been revealed as the Formula One driver Perry Macarthy. Since then there have been numerous different racing drivers speculated as being the Stig and it has been claimed that the character is played by four different drivers. However, aside from these guesses, the true identity of the Stig remains unknown, and the BBC feel it is necessary to protect their harmless secret.

A BBC spokesman stated “This situation has come about as a result of an attempt by an external party to profit from unauthorised use of the Top Gear brand, one of the BBC’s biggest and most watched shows in the UK and around the world. As a result, it is important the BBC does all it can to uphold confidentiality clauses that have been agreed to in relation to the show.” By fighting against the publication of a book revealing the Stig’s identity the BBC is trying to protect the brand they have created which rests in part on the mystery surrounding the character of the Stig.