I'm a Clarkson fan says BBC chief
BBC director-general Tony Hall says he is still "a fan" of suspended Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, but said allegations of a fracas with one of the show's producers were "serious".
Clarkson himself laughed off his latest controversy telling reporters he was "just off to the job centre" after he was suspended following the row with producer Oisin Tymon.
Speaking outside his London home, he joked:
"I've been suspended haven't I? I'm just off to the job centre."
The Top Gear presenter left his flat in Kensington amongst a media scrum before jumping in to a car and being driven away.
In reply to questions he said: "I've been suspended," adding: "At least I'm going to be able to get to the Chelsea match tonight."
Asked if his suspension was over a row about food he said "no, no, no" but said "yes" when asked if he had any regrets about what had happened.
More then half a million fans have signed an online petition demanding Clarkson be reinstated. HERE
Speaking to reporters after an appearance at the European Scrutiny Committee, the director-general said: "We have got an investigation going on.
"The most important thing in anything like this is to gather the facts. We do not have the facts at the moment."
He added: "I am a fan of Jeremy Clarkson but this is a serious thing that is alleged to have taken place."
Asked if he supported Clarkson, co-host James May said:
"In many ways no, I have said many times before the man is a knob, but I quite like him. It's all getting a bit ridiculous."
Asked what he could remember about the row, May said: "Not very much, I was blind drunk".
A lawyer for Mr Tymon said his client " intends to await the outcome of the BBC investigation and will make no comment until that investigation is complete".
Former culture secretary Maria Miller described Clarkson as a "legend" and insisted the BBC had to improve the way it dealt with "larger than life characters".
"I think they need to sort this mess out quickly, and not be seen to be punishing the fans," she told BBC Radio 4's World at One.
"It's a fantastic show and I really think the BBC has got an obligation to get this sorted.
"The BBC needs to be better at managing its talent - there are other organisations that have to deal with larger-than-life characters.
"Perhaps the BBC needs to pull in some of those skills, perhaps look at our football teams. People like (Arsenal manager) Arsene Wenger are doing this day in and day out."
The BBC is investigating the allegations against Clarkson, but he could walk away from the show when his contract runs out at the end of the month.
All three of the show's hosts were understood to be days away from signing new contracts that would have kept them at the wheel of the show for another three years when Clarkson was suspended.
The BBC owns the rights to the Top Gear brand, which is valued at £50 million, and includes the show, DVD rights and live shows, raising the prospect of Top Gear continuing on the BBC while Clarkson takes a similar show to one of its rivals.
Twitter users have speculated about the possibility of a new show
Two episodes of this series have been postponed and the future of the third and final episode is unclear after the bust-up which took place after filming in Newcastle.
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: "It does not appear to have been reported to us and we are not aware of any incident."
Clarkson's first public response to his suspension was a tweet issuing a mock apology to Ed Miliband, whose wife Justine gave an interview to the BBC which was broadcast yesterday.
He said: "Sorry Ed. It seems I knocked your 'I'm a human' piece down the news agenda."
Clarkson retweeted a message from a Top Gear viewer which read: "How can BBC not show the remaining episodes of Top Gear, can't this be resolved without making the fans suffer?"
A BBC spokeswoman said: "Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation.
"No one else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday. The BBC will be making no further comment at this time."
The presenter's daughter Em Clarkson tweeted: "Oh God, BBC please take him back. He's started cooking."
Sunday's episode was set to feature Clarkson with co-hosts Richard Hammond and May getting to grips with classic cars such as a Fiat 124 Spider, an MGB GT and a Peugeot 304 cabriolet.
They were set to take to the road and end up at a classic track day, while Gary Lineker was due to be the "star in a reasonably priced car".
This is the latest in a long line of controversies which has seen the presenter offend foreign diplomats, viewers, MPs and his own bosses at the BBC.
Clarkson was put on what was called his final warning last year following a racism row after claims he used the N-word while reciting the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe during filming of the BBC2 programme.
In recent years he has been cleared of breaching the broadcasting code by watchdog Ofcom after comparing a Japanese car to people with growths on their faces, and faced a storm of protest from mental health charities after branding people who throw themselves under trains as ''selfish''.
He was also forced to apologise for telling BBC1's The One Show that striking workers should be shot, but it is the claims of racism that have really damaged his standing with the corporation.
According to Mr Tymon's LinkedIn profile, he began working on Top Gear as an associate producer in March 2008 before being promoted to producer in March 2012.
Before joining the show he spent just over a year as a researcher and associate producer on daily magazine programme The One Show.
He has a recommendation from an employer on his LinkedIn page which describes him as "personable, professional and efficient".
Top Gear is one of the BBC's biggest money spinners, pulling in millions of pounds from a devoted international audience.
Its latest series was given a global launch with a simultaneous broadcast in more than 50 countries.
Its success - and Clarkson's vital part in it - saw BBC TV boss Danny Cohen compare him to a top-flight footballer, telling reporters last year that "no one is bigger than the club".
Last year, the show was censured by communications regulator Ofcom for breaching broadcasting rules after Clarkson used a "racial" term during the programme's Burma special, which aired in March 2014.
The year ended with the show's crew forced to flee Argentina after trouble erupted when it emerged they were using a Porsche with the registration number H982 FKL, which some people suggested could refer to the Falklands conflict of 1982.
But each episode of the two-part Christmas special attracted more than seven million viewers, with a further three million for each episode on iPlayer.