Ross suspended over Sachs call

Radio 2 chief quits, too

Jonathan Ross has been suspended from his BBC contract without pay for 12 weeks in the wake of his and Russell Brand’s filthy phone call to Andrew Sachs – costing him £1.3million in lost wages.

He will not return to the corporation airwaves until mid-January.

Director-general Mark Thompson said: ‘The ultimate editorial responsibility for BBC programmes lies with producers and editorial managers. The consequences of errors of judgement are therefore more serious for managers.

‘Nonetheless, Jonathan Ross's contribution to this edition of the Russell Brand show was utterly unacceptable and cannot be allowed to go uncensured or without sanction. A 12-week suspension is an exceptional step, but I believe it is a proportionate response to Jonathan's role in this unhappy affair.

‘onathan Ross has already made a comprehensive and unreserved personal apology to Andrew Sachs and his grand-daughter. I believe that he fully understands the seriousness of what has happened. I have made very clear to him the central importance of the clause in his contract about not bringing the BBC into disrepute. We agree that nothing like this must ever happen again.’

Brand had already resigned over the calls, in which he boasted of sleeping with the granddaughter of the 78-year-old Fawlty Towers star, and yesterday Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas quit, too.

Douglas said she had taken the decision ‘with enormous regret’ but felt she had no choice but to shoulder the blame.

In a letter to t Thompson, Douglas wrote: ‘The events of the last two weeks happened on my watch. I believe it is right that I take responsibility for what has happened.

‘It is a matter of the greatest possible sadness to me that a programme on my network has been the cause of such a controversy.

‘I would like to take this opportunity to offer my personal apology to Andrew Sachs and his family and to the audience for what has happened.’

When Brand quit, he issued a statement saying: ‘I have apologised to Andrew Sachs for the rude messages I left on October 18 and he has graciously accepted.

‘As I only do the radio show to make people laugh I’ve decided that given the subsequent coverage I will stop doing the show.

‘I got a bit caught up in the moment and forgot that at the core of the rude comments and silly songs were the real feelings of a beloved and brilliant comic actor and a very sweet and big hearted young woman.

‘Apologies are also owed to the loyal listeners of the show who enjoyed its shambolic spirit and anarchy and will be upset that it cannot continue.

‘I take complete responsibility and offer nothing but love and contrition and I hope that now Jonathan and the BBC will endure less forensic wrath. Hare Krishna.’

Fawlty Towers actor Sachs, 78, said he had "respect" for Brand's decision.

Ross has also apologised for his part in the unexpected scandal. His statement said: ‘I am deeply sorry and greatly regret the upset and distress that my juvenile and thoughtless remarks on the Russell Brand show have caused.

‘I have not issued a statement previously because it was my intention and desire to offer an apology to all those offended on my Friday night programme.

‘However, it was a stupid error of judgement on my part, and I offer a full apology.’

Sachs was left ‘deeply upset’ and ‘terribly hurt’ by the jokes, which went out during Brand’s show on October 18, on which Ross was guest co-host. The show was pre-recorded two days earlier – a fact which has led to questions over the BBC executives who allowed the show to go out. A BBC spokesman said: ‘a senior editorial figure signed off the programme, including its strong language, before it was broadcast’.

Shortly before the pair contacted Sachs for a pre-arranged phone interview, Brand said: ‘In a minute we’re going to be talking to Andrew Sachs, Manuel actor. The elephant in the room is, what Andrew doesn’t know is, I’ve slept with his granddaughter.’

The comedian then rang Sachs. When the veteran actor didn’t answer, Brand left a message during which Ross, who was guest co-host that week, shouted ‘He fucked your granddaughter!’

The pair left a number of subsequent messages, with Brand ‘reassuring’ Sachs that he had worn a condom and, in an improvised song, that the sex was ‘consentual’ and ‘full of respect’.

Ross could be heard singing in the background: ‘Your granddaughter ... she was bent over the couch...’

Published: 31 Oct 2008

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