'A deplorable intrusion'

BBC Trust rules on *those* phone calls

The BBC Trust has ruled that the crude phone calls Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross made to Andrew Sachs were a ‘deplorable intrusion with no editorial justification’.

But Ross will not lose his job over the affair, after chairman Sir Michael Lyons said he supported the decision to suspend Ross for 12-weeks without pay

He said the furore could have been avoided if BBC management had followed editorial guidelines as it was ‘not rocket science’ to have expected the pairing of Ross and Brand to cause trouble.

The trust, which is the BBC's watchdog, has made a list of recommendations, including highlighting the most risky radio programmes, tougher penalties for staff who break editorial guidelines, and tighter controls on shows such as Brand’s that are made by companies owned by the performers.

BBC trustee Richard Tait said the offence was made worse when Brand appeared on Chris Moyles's Radio 1 show on October 21 to discuss the incident – which was also in breach of editorial guidelines in respect of privacy and offence.

Mr Tait added that the trust considered Brand's ‘unacceptable, so-called apology’ broadcast on Radio 2 the week after the calls exacerbated the offence.

Knowing The Mail on Sunday was about to break the story, Brand issued an apology to the Fawlty Towers actor, which he immediately undermined by adding ‘but it was funny, though’.

Sir Michael added: ‘It is not the job of the trust to make decisions about the terms and conditions of performers or the sanctions that are applied to them. We are very clear that the director-general has taken the right action with respect to Jonathan Ross.’

He said the trust could not direct the BBC to hire or fire its presenters: ‘There is a slippery slope - in responding to pressure, where does it end? It starts with comedians, and it ends with making judgements about who presents the news.’

Brand quit the BBC after the incident, as did Radio 2 station boss Lesley Douglas and David Barber, the executive responsible for clearing the pre-recorded show for broadcast.

Here is the full text of the BBC's response to the Trust's ruling, which also refers to an episode of Ross's chat show when he told Gwyneth Paltrow he 'would fuck' her:

BBC Management have submitted a comprehensive report to the BBC Trust on how two editions of The Russell Brand Show on Radio 2, which caused widespread offence, came to be broadcast.

The report, which again makes clear that the BBC Management regards this content as a very serious breach of its editorial standards, highlights unacceptable failures in editorial judgement and compliance which led to the offending broadcasts on the network.

A range of actions proposed by BBC management has been approved by the Trust. In addition, two very senior managers and a presenter have resigned and a major presenter has been suspended without pay for 12 weeks.

The BBC is determined to act on the lessons learnt from this incident, in particular to reinforce adherence to the BBC's compliance systems. This will be a major priority within the BBC's Audio & Music division.

The BBC Management accepts in full all the findings published by the BBC Trust today, including the decision of the BBC Trust to uphold the complaint against an edition of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, broadcast on 2 May 2008.

In particular we will consider carefully the BBC Trust's ruling on the use of language and audience expectations. Management will reinforce due consideration of the editorial guidelines, a strict adherence to the editorial referral process and will exercise considerable care over the use of language, especially of the most offensive words or phrases.

Published: 21 Nov 2008

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