Jeremy Clarkson strike comments acceptable, says Ofcom
- 20 February 2012
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Jeremy Clarkson's comment that striking public sector workers "should be shot" was not in breach of broadcasting rules, media watchdog Ofcom has said.
Asked about striking workers during November's public sector walk-out, Clarkson said he would "execute them in front of their families".
It resulted in 31,000 complaints to the BBC, and 736 to Ofcom.
But the broadcasting standards body concluded that the Top Gear presenter's comments "were not made seriously".
It added that Clarkson's words "were not at all likely to encourage members of the public... to act on them in any way".
Ofcom acknowledged the comments were "potentially offensive" but were justified by the context.
The exchange came as Clarkson was asked his opinion of the people engaged in a day-long industrial action over pensions.
His initial response was: "I think they have been fantastic. Absolutely. London today has just been empty. Everybody stayed at home, you can whizz about, restaurants are empty."
However, he added: "We have to balance this though, because this is the BBC. Frankly, I'd have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families."
Ofcom's ruling came in a letter to the assistant general secretary of Unison, Bronwyn McKenna, who had made a formal complaint following the broadcast.
The watchdog noted that presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones had alluded to Clarkson's reputation for making controversial remarks when they introduced him.
"It would have been clear to most viewers that his comments were not an expression of seriously held beliefs or views that would be literally interpreted," it added.
Ofcom also pointed out that Jones had made a "wide-ranging apology" regarding Clarkson's comments at the end of the programme.
The BBC also later apologised for any offence caused.
Ofcom also made clear that Clarkson was warned ahead of transmission that "it was not appropriate to make any remarks he later went on to say".
Clarkson apologised soon after the event. Unison accepted his apology and invited him to spend a day with a healthcare assistant.