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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 August 2006, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
BBC backs 'provocative' Top Gear
Jeremy Clarkson
BBC governors rejected a complaint about Jeremy Clarkson's Nazi salute
Viewers who are offended by jokes on motoring show Top Gear must accept such remarks will remain "an integral part of the programme", the BBC has said.

The corporation has issued a statement on its complaints website after receiving 500 objections in six months.

"Provocative comments" by hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May must not be taken seriously, it said.

The BBC said the audience should be "familiar enough" with Top Gear's tone to be able to cope with the jibes.

Sarcasm was part of Top Gear's appeal, the statement stressed, and members of the public and participants were never immune "from the team's acerbic comments and observations".

Were the presenters' comments and pranks carried out with any degree of seriousness... we would of course take issue with them
BBC statement

Last month, BBC governors rejected one viewer's objection to a Nazi salute by Clarkson on an edition broadcast last November.

They did admit there had been "a real potential to offend" but said most viewers would have known Clarkson often used "the most exaggerated stereotypes to support or defend his opinions".

They would not have taken his comments seriously for that reason, the governors added.

A BBC spokeswoman said there had also been "a number of calls" about a report on caravans broadcast on 16 July from "viewers who were taking issue with various aspects" of the feature.

The statement on the complaints website said Top Gear's format would not be changed.

But it reassured viewers that the corporation would continue to monitor the tone of the show.

"Were the presenters' comments and pranks carried out with any degree of seriousness, rather than being clearly tongue-in-cheek or adopting the deliberate overstatement that is the programme's trademark, we would of course take issue with them," it added.

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