12:11 14 December 2011
The BBCs director general Mark Thompson has defended Jeremy Clarkson over his recent controversial comments.
Clarkson sparked outrage this month after joking on The One show that striking public sector workers should be "executed in front of their families".
The BBC and media regulator Ofcom received around 32,000 complaints about the comments and trade union UNISON called for the Top Gear presenter to be sacked.
However, Thompson told the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee that the comments were not to be taken seriously and confirmed that the presenter would not be fired.
"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."
Thompson conceded that Clarkson is a "polarising figure", but added that the opposition to him must be balanced against his "value to viewers":
"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."
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