The BBC has pleased gay campaigners after upholding a complaint that Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson was behaving in a derogatory manner after referring to a car as “gay” on the programme.

Four viewers complained about an exchange during BBC Two’s Top Gear last July in which Clarkson picked up a remark from an audience that a certain car was “gay”, the presenter then backed it up by saying, “a bit gay, yes very ginger beer” which is cockney rhyming slang for queer.

The complainants objected to what they took to be the derogatory use of a term for homosexual people.

In a landmark ruling for a broadcaster, the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit agreed that the remarks “risk offending some of our audience.”

The ruling stated, “As Jeremy Clarkson supplemented the term “gay” with a phrase which is rhyming slang for “queer”, there was no doubt that it was being used in the sense of “homosexual”, and was capable of giving offence.”

The judgement called for the show to be reminded of “the importance of avoiding derogatory references to sexual orientation.”

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay charity Stonewall, told PinkNews.co.uk: “This sort of thing is inappropriate language for prime time television that is watched by families with young children, the BBC recieves almost £200 million a year from lesbian and gay license payers and it would not permit such offensive remarks to be made about faith or race communities.”

It comes after the channel’s Board of Governors earlier this year ruled that Radio1 DJ Chris Moyle’s had not been homophobic when he describing a ring tone as gay.

A study by Stonewall last February found that gays and lesbians are rarely featured positively by the BBC.

Communications regulator Ofcom is currently planning to research how terminology referring to sexuality is used in broadcasting.