Just days after being engulfed in a controversy involving two of its biggest on-air personalities, the BBC acknowledged it has received over 500 complaints about an unsavory joke made by another of its leading presenters.
The complaints were about Jeremy Clarkson joking on his popular TV auto show “Top Gear” about truck drivers killing prostitutes, the British broadcaster said Tuesday on its Web site.
In February, former truck driver Steve Wright was convicted of murdering five prostitutes in southeast England.
Clarkson, who is known for making edgy comments, was describing a driver’s day.
“Change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder,” he joked in the Sunday evening show that was watched by 7 million viewers.
“I just think it was highly distasteful and insensitive,” said Brian Tobin, director of The Iceni Project, a charity for sex workers that had helped some of Wright’s victims before they were murdered.
Just last week, the BBC was forced to defend its editorial standards after comedian Russell Brand and fellow presenter Jonathan Ross left lewd messages on the phone of 78-year old actor Andrew Sachs about his granddaughter.
Over 18,000 people complained about that broadcast and in the ensuing fallout, Brand resigned from his radio show, Ross was suspended for three months and Radio 2’s much-respected controller Lesley Douglas stepped down.
Several people within the BBC also apologized publicly for the remarks.
The BBC was not apologetic, however, about Clarkson’s comments.
“The vast majority of “Top Gear” viewers have clear expectations of Jeremy Clarkson’s long-established and frequently provocative on-screen persona,” the BBC said in a statement. “This particular reference was used to comically exaggerate and make ridiculous an unfair urban myth about the world of lorry driving and was not intended to cause offense.”
British media regulator Ofcom said it had received complaints about Clarkson’s comments but was not currently investigating the matter.