Mark Thompson defends Jeremy Clarkson

Mark ThompsonMark Thompson, the BBC‘s much mangled director general, has defended Jeremy Clarkson.

Thompson and BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten defended the Top Gear presenter while appearing before the culture, media and sports select committee in Tuesday. Clarkson provoked the wrath of thousand of viewers during an appearance on The One Show in which he said public sector workers should be “executed in front of their families“. Presenters Alex Jones and Matt Baker immediately apologised for Clarkson’s comments and the presenter himself later apologised to.

Supporters of the presenter insisted his comments were in jest and were a joke but that hasn’t stopped over 30,000 people complaining to the BBC and media regulator Ofcom; there have also been calls for Clarkson to be sacked. Labour MP Jim Sheridan told Thompson and Patten, that Clarkson was a ‘luxury you can’t afford‘. However, Mark Thompson insisted that he wasn’t going to sack the presenter over a ‘couple of flippant remarks’. He told the select committee ‘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.”

Patten also defended the presenter telling MP’s that Clarkson was ‘probably one of the leading cultural exports of this country‘ and ‘a lot of people would be disappointed‘ if he were sacked. Furthermore Thompson said that the popularity of Top Gear and Clarkson were important to the BBC ‘There are many millions of people who very strongly support and enjoy Jeremy Clarkson. That has to be balanced against a couple of flippant remarks in one programme. 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.”

The incident over Clarkson’s comments on The One Show has resulted in comparisons with the ‘Sachs-gate’ scandal in which Russell Brand quit BBC Radio and Jonathan Ross later left the corporation because of the media frenzy surrounding the lewd message they left on the answer-phone of the actor Andrew Sachs. The incident sparked thousands of complaints from listeners, mostly though were not listeners of Brand’s show, and resulted in the BBC tightening up its editorial procedures.

(Via Media Guardian)