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29/10/2008

BBC Suspends Brand And Ross Over Phone Stunt

TV presenters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have been suspended and all their shows on the BBC taken off air, as the row over the pair's prank calls to 'Fawlty Towers' actor Andrew Sachs intensifies.
BBC Director-General Mark Thompson issued a statement on Wednesday which accused both the presenters and the production team of a "gross lapse of taste" and confirmed that both Brand and Ross had been suspended.
Mr Thompson said: "BBC audiences accept that, in comedy, performers attempt to push the line of taste. However, this is not a marginal case. It is clear from the views expressed by the public that this broadcast has caused severe offence and I share that view.
"Since Sunday, I have been in regular contact with the senior executives I tasked with handling this issue. The investigation that I instructed Tim Davie to conduct is nearing completion and I am returning to London to review the findings and, in the coming days, announce what action we will take.
"In the meantime, I have decided that it is not appropriate for either Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross to continue broadcasting on the BBC until I have seen the full report of the actions of all concerned.
"I have been asked to report to the Trust's Editorial Standards Committee before the end of this week and will discuss with the Trust the findings of the report and the actions I propose."
Mr Thompson also offered a "personal and unreserved apology to Andrew Sachs, his family and to license fee payers" for the "completely unacceptable broadcast".
The row erupted following the broadcast of Brand's show on BBC Radio 2 on October 18, on which Ross was a guest.
The pair made a series of prank phone calls to Sachs, 78, who played Spanish waiter Manuel on 'Fawlty Towers'. He had been scheduled to give an interview to the show, but had to pull it due to unforseen circumstances.
During the phone calls, Ross claimed that Brand that slept with Sachs' granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, 23.
The BBC has now received more than 18,000 complaints about the incident. Sachs' agent, Meg Pool, also wrote to the BBC last week, demanding an apology for the incident.
The BBC apologised to Mr Sachs and listeners, saying: "We recognise that some of the content broadcast was unacceptable and offensive."
On Tuesday, media regulator Ofcom announced that it was launching an investigation into the incident.
Speaking to the BBC yesterday, Sachs confirmed that Ross had personally delivered a letter of apology and some flowers, but said that he had not heard from Brand.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown even became involved in the incident, describing it as "inappropriate and unacceptable".
On Wednesday, Miss Baillie told The Sun that both Brand and Ross should "pay for what they've done with their jobs".
She said that her grandfather was "really upset" about the incident and said: "What's funny about humiliating a lovely old man who has never harmed anyone in his life?"
(KMcA)
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