BBC chief laughs off calls for Jeremy Clarkson to be sacked

Jeremy Clarkson

Top Gear is one of UK's top 'cultural' exports and viewers would be sad if Clarkson left, adds Patten

LAST UPDATED AT 16:20 ON Tue 13 Dec 2011

JEREMY CLARKSON's views on public sector workers may have generated more than 32,000 complaints, but his job appears to be safe today. BBC director-general Mark Thompson laughed off calls for him to be sacked while BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten called Top Gear one of the country's leading exports.
 
Thompson and Patten defended Clarkson during an appearance before the House of Commons culture committee.
 
The presenter was forced to apologise after saying, during a live appearance on The One Show on 30 November, that public sector workers who had gone on strike that day should be taken out and shot in front of their families.
 
Labour MP Jim Sheridan challenged the BBC to sack Clarkson, but Thompson said to do so "would set precedents that mean a lot of people would never get to broadcast".
 
The DG insisted that the presenter’s remarks were "absolutely and clearly intended as a joke". And while he admitted that the Top Gear presenter was a "polarising figure for the BBC", he said: "There are many millions of people who enjoy and support Jeremy Clarkson. That has to be balanced against a couple of flippant remarks in one programme."
 
Patten went even further and said "a lot of people would be disappointed" if Clarkson was fired. He described motoring show Top Gear as "probably one of the leading 'cultural' exports of this country". He did make it clear that "cultural" was to appear in quote marks, according to The Guardian.
 
Top Gear is the BBC's biggest selling international show and one of the BBC's five so-called "power brands".
 
Thompson's support of Clarkson appears to be rather more solid than the backing he gave Jonathan Ross after the 'Sachsgate' scandal, which generated 55,000 complaints to the BBC. Ross was suspended for 12 weeks for his part in the prank calls that cost comedian Russell Brand his job and the corporation apologised to license fee holders. Ross left the BBC last year. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.