Jeremy Clarkson in row over Top Gear India special

Jeremy Clarkson has landed the BBC in hot water again after viewers of the Top Gear Christmas special complained that his jokes about India’s people and culture were offensive.

The frequently controversial presenter — who recently generated thousands of complaints over a quip on the BBC One Show that striking public sector workers should be “executed in front of their families” — made a string of jokes about the Indian food, clothes, toilets, trains and even the country’s history.

Incidents during the show, which aired on Wednesday night and attracted an audience of five million, included Clarkson driving a Jaguar around an Indian slum with a toilet fitted in the boot. “This is perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots,” he quipped.

Another gag involved putting banners with seemingly innocuous slogans — such as Eat English Muffins — on the side of trains. However, the banners were strategically placed so that when the trains carriages split a new, offensive, phrase emerged: “Eat English Muff.”

The train banner stunt, which included one slogan that transformed into the word “Shit For Your Company”, aired before 9pm when offensive language and content is prohibited from being broadcast.

In another scene Clarkson was seen stripping off his trousers in public in front of two Indian dignitaries to show them how to use a trouser press, while joking that he used it to make naan bread.

Some newspapers took a dim view on other, somewhat tame, incidents. The Daily Star, which dedicated the front page and a double-page spread to the incident in its edition on Friday, accused the presenters of “ridiculing” the Indian train system by “opening the doors of the moving carriages in fits of giggles and leaning outside”.

The BBC has so far received 23 complaints that the string of crude jokes and gags were “offensive to India and Indian culture”. There were also some complaints against the show by some users on Twitter, with a small number of users of the micro-blogging service accusing the show of “casual racism”. and “racist stereotyping”.

A BBC spokesperson declined to offer a comment about whether the corporation would seek to investigate the official complaints or take action against Clarkson.

The BBC is already facing an investigation by Ofcom over Clarkson’s recent rant on the The One Show, which saw the corporation receive 32 000 complaints about his comment that public sector workers who went on strike should be “executed in front of their families”.

The Top Gear trio of Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond have developed something of a habit for stereotyping or insulting foreign nationalities.

In February, the BBC was forced to apologise to the Mexican ambassador after a joke by Hammond that Mexican cars reflected national characteristics, saying they were “just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat”.

May described Mexican food as “like sick with cheese on it” and Clarkson predicted they would not get any complaints about the show because “at the Mexican embassy, the ambassador is going to be sitting there with a remote control like this [snores]. They won’t complain, it’s fine.”

Later that month Clarkson turned his attention to Albania in a segment where the presenters had gone to the East European country ostensibly to road-test cars for a mafia boss.

Earlier in December, the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, told a committee of MPs he had no intention of sacking Clarkson, pointing to the presenter’s fanbase and commercial success of the Top Gear franchise.

The BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten, said Clarkson is one of the UK’s leading “cultural” exports. –

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

The tablet explodes: Old and young charge towards tech

In the space of 5 years tablets have become a must-have device, a report shows that one in 10 three to four-year-olds own one.

‘Top Gear’ presenter Jeremy Clarkson suspended after ‘punch’

The controversial TV host was suspended by the BBC after a "fracas" with a producer. He was already on a final warning after alleged racist comments.

Facebook adds £2bn to UK economy

Facebook estimates that it contributes more than £2-billion a year to the UK, including the development of an almost £500-million "app economy".

Wikipedia blackout results in increased mobile visits

Visits to the mobile version of Wikipedia's website rose by more than 1-million on Wednesday after the blackout in protest of US anti-piracy bills.

PayPal’s Scott Thompson to pick up the pieces at Yahoo!

Struggling internet company Yahoo! has appointed the president of PayPal, Scott Thompson, as its new CEO, replacing the ousted Carol Bartz.

UK union calls for Jeremy Clarkson’s head

A British trade union is demanding that the BBC fire Jeremy Clarkson over comments that striking public sector workers should be shot.

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘My north star is the patient’

Rhulani Nhlaniki is Pfizer’s cluster lead for sub-Saharan Africa. As Pfizer starts phase III of the clinical trial of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, he tells Malaikah Bophela that if it is successful, the company will ensure the vaccine will be available to everyone who needs it

Ghost fishing gear an ‘immortal menace’ in oceans

Lost and illegal tackle is threatening marine life and the lives of people making a living from the sea

In terms of future-telling failures, this is a Major One

Bushiri knows how to pull a crowd. Ace knows a ponzi scheme. Paddy Harper predicts that a new prophet may profit at Luthuli House

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday