The BBC’s director-general, Mark Thompson, has defended Jeremy Clarkson after the controversy caused by Clarkson’s appearance on BBC1 teatime programme The One Show a fortnight ago.
The Top Gear presenter said on the programme that striking public sector workers should be “shot in front of their families”, resulting in more than 32,000 complaints being made to the BBC and Ofcom.
Labour MP Jim Sheridan, a member of the culture, media and sport select committee, said to Thompson that Clarkson was a “luxury you can’t afford.”
“I don’t intend to sack him,” Thompson told the committee today.
“I believe it is absolutely clear to anyone who watches the clips, perhaps not who reads a section of the transcript, these remarks are said entirely in jest and not to be taken seriously. In my view, Jeremy Clarkson’s remarks were absolutely and clearly intended as a joke.”
BBC Chairman Lord Patten also leapt to Clarkson’s defence in front of the committee, saying that the motoring programme was “probably one of the leading ‘cultural’ exports of this country” and that “a lot of people would be disappointed [if Clarkson was sacked]”.
“There are many millions of people who very strongly support and enjoy Jeremy Clarkson, [and] that has to be balanced against a couple of flippant remarks in one programme,” said Thompson.
“Well over 20 million people watch Top Gear in a given season. It gets a very high rating from the public for quality. People watch that programme expecting often outspoken humour from Clarkson.”