London, Nov 4 : English broadcaster and journalist Jeremy Clarkson has sparked a fresh controversy with his joke about murdering prostitutes.
Clarkson, 48, who co-presents the BBC TV show Top Gear, had made the remark on November 2 night's BBC2 show, after he had completed a lorry-driving task. "This is a hard job and I'm not just saying that to win favour with lorry drivers," the Daily Express quoted him as having said.
"Change gear, change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder. That's a lot of effort in a day," he had stated.
Before Clarkson made his comments, serial killer Steve Wright, who had once been a lorry driver, had been convicted in February of murdering five prostitutes in Ipswich.
The joke, which was made before the 9pm watershed, is said to have sparked 188 complaints from seven million viewers.
The remark was criticised by the Iceni Project, a charity that had worked with some of the Ipswich prostitutes who were murdered.
"I think it was highly distasteful and insensitive," Iceni Project's director Brian Tobin commented upon it.
"Maybe people on the BBC should think a bit more before saying some of the things they keep coming out with. It is around the time of the anniversary of the girls' deaths and it's a very delicate time.
"I saw the joke on Top Gear. It made me cringe," he added.
A spokesman for the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom said that it had received complaints about the programme.
"These complaints are being assessed against the Broadcasting Code," the spokesman said.
"All UK broadcasters must adhere to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code which sets standards for the content of television and radio broadcasting," he stated.
John Beyer, the director of pressure group Mediawatch-UK, also added his disapproval of the joke.
"I think it's difficult to justify. Jeremy Clarkson has been careless," he said.
In defence of Clarkson's joke, a BBC spokeswoman said that it was not intended to offend anyone.
"The vast majority of Top Gear viewers have clear expectations of Jeremy Clarkson's long-established and frequently provocative on-screen persona. This particular reference was used comically to exaggerate and make ridiculous an unfair urban myth about the world of lorry driving and was not intended to cause offence," she added.