BBC director general Mark Thompson defended Jeremy Clarkson today but admitted the Top Gear host was a "polarising figure" for viewers.
Clarkson was forced to apologise earlier this month after saying striking public sector workers should be shot in front of their families during an appearance on The One Show on BBC1.
Mr Thompson told the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee that Clarkson's comments were "said entirely in jest and were not intended to be taken seriously" and that he would not be sacked.
Challenged by committee member Jim Sheridan to sack Clarkson, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said: "Were we to sack him for saying something pretty stupid that would set precedents that mean a lot of people would never get to broadcast."
Mr Thompson said: "Although clearly he's a polarising figure for the BBC, there are many millions of people who enjoy and support Jeremy Clarkson. That has to be balanced against a couple of flippant remarks in one programme."
Lord Patten also defended filming techniques used in the Sir David Attenborough series Frozen Planet which used footage of a polar bear tending her newborn cubs that were shot in a zoo.
He said: "The alternative was either dead bears or dead people."
Mr Thompson said the commentary would not be re-edited to reflect the filming techniques used.
He said the public did not want "to be reminded constantly about how the programme was made as it goes along".