BBC Loses Its Attempt To Silence Top Gear Test Driver The Stig From Revealing His Identity

from the hello-ben-collins dept

The incredibly popular UK BBC TV show Top Gear has been involved in a legal fight with publisher HarperCollins over the plans to publish a book revealing the identity of “The Stig,” the always secretive test driver who appears in the show unidentified in a racing suit and helmet. The BBC spent its (publicly-funded) money to try to prevent such a revelation, but the UK courts have pointed out the basic free speech rights involved, and allowed racecar driver Ben Collins to admit that he’s The Stig and have his autobiography published. Of course, in watching this battle unfold, I was confused as to why the BBC was going after HarperCollins, rather than targeting Ben Collins directly (and, by the way, I’m assuming the “Collins” in both names is a coincidence). Either way, as HarperCollins notes, this does appear to be a victory for free speech. In the meantime, if the BBC is really so upset that “the mystery” is gone, why not just get a new once-again secret Stig? In fact, the BBC has actually done exactly that in the past, dumping Perry McCarthy as the original Stig after his identity was revealed.

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Companies: bbc, harpercollins

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Comments on “BBC Loses Its Attempt To Silence Top Gear Test Driver The Stig From Revealing His Identity”

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Griff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Confidentiality

You are confusing suing him for breach of contract (which they will probably do when the book is published and he has actually breached the contract) with trying to prevent the damage occurring in the first place (by preventing publication , which requires an injunction against the publisher, not against him).

Suing him after the fact is to some extent crying over spilt milk, and the only value in it is to warn future transgressors that such contracts will be enforced.

I expect they’ll win the breach of contract case (open and shut) which will take the edge of his book earnings. But the publisher will still do fine. As one of the posters above noted, it seems as if Ben Collins is being used.

The main topic of discussion in UK is “should license payers’ money have been spent trying to get the injunction ?”. Or maybe “what advise did they take regarding how likely the injunction was to succeed ?”.

Given the Streisand effect, this whole affair will only serve to heighten Christmas book sales. But then you could argue whether or not the Top Gear program will do well out of the book publicity in the long term.

Aitala (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Confidentiality

I think Griff pretty much nails the legal argument here.

I think Mike’s addition about public funding is also off base since Top Gear make the BBC a quite substantial amount of money. The mythos of the Stig is part of the show’s fun and it could be argued that revealing his identity might reduce the profits the show makes.

Now I need to find my ‘I am the Stig’s fat cousin’ T-shirt.


Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Re: Confidentiality

Griff spouted:

You are confusing suing him for breach of contract (which they will probably do when the book is published and he has actually breached the contract) with trying to prevent the damage occurring in the first place (by preventing publication , which requires an injunction against the publisher, not against him).

So what? What legal grounds do they have for going after the publisher for ?damage?? All they have is the contractual agreement with Collins himself, not with the publisher.

Richard (profile) says:

Harper Collins is Murdoch

Harper Collins is owned by News international. This is part of Rupert Murdoch’s attack on the BBC – now his only serious competitor in UK TV.

He is trying to undermine the revenue making potential of top gear – which is one of the BBC’s biggest moneyspinners. Ben Collins is being used…

(Actually he was blown up in the last show – so it should be fairly easy to justify replacing him – or maybe “regenerating him” – like Dr Who…)

mbs says:

The Character "the Stig"

I think this matters less to fans of Top Gear than the BBC and Collins himself realise. The Stig is a character, and who plays him doesn’t matter much – especially since we never see his face (well, now, except when Collins has contributed as himself). If this biography sells, it’s probably because it’s describing how it is playing an anonymous man, not necessarily because that man was the Stig.

Another myth created by Jeremy Clarkson which this book might debunk, is that racing drivers “have tiny little brains”, and are “dreary”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Character "the Stig"

“I think this matters less to fans of Top Gear than the BBC and Collins himself realise.”

Exactly. The Stig is like a character from a movie. We know an actor has to play that character. But even if we know the actor’s identity, what matters is that the man in the white suit is The Stig, not Ben Collins. People will always see him as The Stig, no matter what.

BBC should see this as an end of an era and an opportunity to expand the myth of The Stig. Why not throw in a few more Stig clones or kill off this Stig and move on (like they did before)?

Lisae Boucher (profile) says:

Re: Re: A Red Stig?

Maybe. 🙂 Then again, it would be a very interesting idea. I can imagine how they would introduce her. IIt starts with the old Stig racing in some bad car. A bazooka becomes visible, in the hand of someone in red. The bazooka shoots and hits the car with Stig in it. BOOM! Flames, explosions, smoke and end of old Stig. Focus on the woman in red, she turns out to be Red Stig, and she forcefully takes over the job of old Stig. 🙂
Besides, it doesn’t have to be a real woman. A blonde wig and two big oranges located at the right place and poof! Instant she-Stig. Would also make it much harder to guess her (his) real identity…

Jeremy7600 (profile) says:

As a longtime fan of the show, I should have never read the article after I saw the headline.. (my own fault there, but hey, I couldn’t stop myself) I was always intrigued by the mystery and enjoyed the fact that they hid his identity. It matters less to fans of this show than they think? It matters a lot to me, now I won’t think of him (the current one) as the Stig, and a mystery figure, but some no name driver I’ve never heard of.

Who plays him does not matter, but the fact that it has been revealed who he is DOES matter. Bit of a difference there. Like I said above, I enjoyed the idea of not knowing who he was and always guessing who he might be. Now, that’s ruined.

I would hope that there is more than one Stig and that the mystery continues. I love it.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Some say… that he sleeps inside out
Some say… that he’s confused by stairs
Some say… that he invented November
Some say… that he has a digital face
Some say… that he’s banned from the town of Chichester
Some say… that he appears on high-value stamps in Sweden
Some say… that he sucks the moisture from ducks
Some say… that he’s illegal in 17 US States
Some say… that his breath smells of magnesium
Some say… that his genitals are on upside-down
Some say… that he invented Branston Pickle
Some say… that his voice can only be heard by cats
Some say… that his first name really is “The”
Some say… that his tears are adhesive
Some say… that he once punched a horse to the ground
Some say… that, once, he had an affair with John Prescott
Some say… that he has a full-size tattoo of his face… on his face
Some say… that he knows two facts about ducks. And both of them are wrong.
Some say… that he thought Star Wars was a documentary
Some say… that he once had a vicious knife-fight with Anthea Turner
Some say… that when he slows down, brake lights come on in his buttocks
Some say… that to unlock him, you have to run your finger down his face
Some say… that he once had full sex with Russell Brand’s answering machine
Some say… that he isn’t allowed, by law, within a hundred yards of Lorraine Kelly
Some say… that he’s never seen an episode of Top Gear, because he’s a huge fan of Midsomer Murders

All we know is, he’s called The Stig!

Just assume that they sacked Collins and it’s someone else behind the visor now. Mystery intact.

Ben (profile) says:

Statistics are wrecked

But the point of the Stig is to set fast times with all the cars. Now they have to start over, because the new Stig’s times won’t be comparable with the old Stig’s times, because we’ll all know they’re being set by a different driver.

I do like the idea of a female Red Stig, however. And none of this ‘blonde wig and a pair of oranges’ malarkey. Let’s have a real woman (most people can tell the difference in silhouette anyway!) to do the driving – the power to weight ratio is likely to be better anyway.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

The Funny Thing Was ...

… I saw this on the TV news the other day, and the item was dominated by commentators saying how the BBC had ?invested millions of pounds? in its ?intellectual property?, which therefore had to be protected. Nowhere did they explain why ?millions of pounds? automatically gave them a legal right to any ?intellectual property?, or even what the nature of the ?intellectual property? was.

That, to me, is the biggest problem with the term ?intellectual property?: that you no longer seem to need to spell out exactly what the nature of the ?intellectual property? is, whether it?s specifically a copyright, a patent, a trademark or a trade secret that you?re trying to ?protect?, instead by just calling it ?intellectual property? you can give the impression it?s something that mixes together all these concepts, while at the same time managing to go beyond them all.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Stig

I don’t actuallys ee why they keep his identity hidden in the first place, all he does is drive the cars, let him have his word as well, what could it really hurt. Working and subscribing to DISH network I get to enjoy the stig in HD whenever I can, the HD quality is crystal clear, which only makes the cars look beeter, and with all HD being free witha ll top packages. can’t complain. I promise we will let the HD reveal itself if it wants to.

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