Media Lifeline: Top Gear

The public's appetite for Clarkson and co has made it one of BBC 2's flagship shows.

October 1993: First aired in 1977, Top Gear in its earliest incarnations had been a thoroughly uninspired (and uninspiring) BBC show hosted by slow-lane presenters such as Angela Rippon and Noel Edmonds. But, nevertheless, it evolves into a multimedia property in 1993 with the launch of a masthead monthly magazine spin-off.

October 2002: The BBC nearly kills off the brand just when Jeremy Clarkson is reviving the show. Clarkson exits, ratings plummet and he comes back on the proviso he can reinvent the show in its now familiar standing-studio-audience-in an-aircraft-hangar format.

February 2005: Ratings soar and the inherent strength of the Top Gear cross-media franchise is underlined in the magazine's circulation figures for the second half of 2004. Most motoring titles seemed to have been knocked sideways by the arrival of the new men's weeklies, Nuts and Zoo - but Top Gear is the only title to buck the trend, with an increase of 10 per cent to more than 165,000.

February 2007: The programme attracts plaudits (national and international awards) and brickbats (complaints to the BBC and Ofcom that it encourages irresponsible behaviour and attitudes, with Clarkson being accused variously of xenophobia, bigotry and homophobia to boot) in equal measure. But ratings continue to rise and the magazine passes the 200,000 milestone in circulation figures for the second half of 2006.

June 2009: As the new series starts, the magazine freshens up, with the appointment of the new editor, Conor McNicholas, formerly the editor of IPC's NME. In Top Gear's most recent circulation figures, it recorded its 12th successive increase to 200,756.

Fast forward ...

May 2010: Now the brand really goes into overdrive when Clarkson, following an inclusive General Election outcome, is invited to become a special advisor on trade and industry matters in a new coalition government. (It's seen as a sound populist move seeing as there have been petitions doing the rounds calling on him to become the Prime Minister.) He's sacked by the BBC, though - which decides to front the show with Graham Norton.