BBC suspends Brand and Ross after phone prank
Published 29/10/2008 | 11:31
Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have been suspended by the BBC and investigation launched into their prank calls made on Radio 2.
All of their shows have been taken off air until the the investigation is concluded. The news was announced in a statement by director general Mark Thompson.
BBC Director General Mark Thompson, said: "This is not a marginal case. It's clear from the views expressed by the public that this broadcast has caused severe offence and I share that view.
"This gross lapse of taste by the performers and the production team has angered licence payers."
The granddaughter of Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs has called for Brand and Ross to be sacked.
Georgina Baillie, 23, who dances in a burlesque troop called Satanic Sluts, said she may make a complaint to police about the prank radio show phonecalls to her grandfather.
She branded the high-earning presenters "cruel sickos" for leaving a series of crude messages on Sachs' answerphone during a pre-recorded radio show. They included boasts from Brand about his sexual relationship with Miss Baillie and jokes from the DJs that veteran actor Sachs might kill himself as a result of the revelation.
The BBC has received over 18,000 complaints since the broadcast, which has also prompted an official investigation from media watchdog Ofcom and drawn widespread condemnation from a range of figures including the Prime Minister.
In an interview with The Sun, Miss Baillie said: "What's funny about humiliating a lovely old man who has never harmed anyone in his life? My grandfather is really upset and says he wants the whole situation to end.
"I will be speaking to him to ask whether we should complain to the police and we'll be making the decision as a family.
"They (Brand and Ross) should at least pay for what they've done with their jobs."
Aspiring model Ms Baillie also said that the Radio 2 bosses who allowed the DJs' on-air calls to be broadcast should also go.
She added that she felt "totally and utterly exposed and betrayed" by the calls.
However, she did admit that she had slept with Russel Brand.
After hearing news of the suspensions Mr Sachs said he was "not surprised". He confirmed he was not planning to take the matter up with the police.
He said the pair had got it "badly wrong" and made a "poor team", but he was not seeking revenge.
Brand publicly apologised to Mr Sachs as he left his home in Hampstead, north west London, today.
Surrounded by dozens of photographers and reporters, the star said: "I'm sorry that I have upset Mr Sachs."
How radio show prank call row unfolded
Saturday 18 October
- Calls made by Brand and Ross to Andrew Sachs and messages left on his answerphone are aired in pre-recorded sections on Brand's BBC Radio 2 evening show between 9pm and 11pm. It includes Ross telling the Fawlty Towers star Brand had slept with the actor's granddaughter Georgina Baillie and Brand joking he might kill himself.
Saturday 25 October
- As reporters prepare a story for the Mail on Sunday, Brand sings a light-hearted apology to Sachs on his radio show but says "it was quite funny" and replays some of the calls.
Sunday 26 October
- Newspapers report the fallout from the crude phone calls.
- Sachs's agent Meg Poole says the actor is "upset" by the incident. She says she has emailed and written to the BBC to formally complain about the calls.
Monday 27 October
- The BBC apologises to Sachs for the "unacceptable and offensive" content of the calls. The corporation says it has launched a review.
- Pressure group Mediawatch-UK calls for Brand and Ross to be taken off air while the BBC investigates.
- The BBC reveals it has received more than 1,500 complaints. Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has also received complaints.
- Sachs tells reporters he is angry but that the apology should be directed at his granddaughter.
Tuesday 28 October
- Conservative MP for Monmouth David Davies calls for the pair to be sacked.
- Former BBC deputy director general Will Wyatt says "someone should take some pain" for what happened.
- John Whittingdale, chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, stops short of calling for the DJs to be sacked but says an investigation should be carried out into editorial "failures".
- Ofcom announces an investigation into the phone calls.
- The BBC Trust asks for a report from BBC management on its investigations.
- The BBC reveals complaints about Brand's show stands at 4,700.
- A spokeswoman for Sachs says Ross sent flowers and a letter of apology to the actor.
- Tory leader David Cameron adds his voice, calling for the BBC to be "transparent" about how the programme came to be broadcast.
- A parliamentary motion condemning the phone calls is tabled by Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay and Tory MP Nigel Evans.
- The BBC's director-general Mark Thompson comes under growing pressure from politicians to act.
- Culture Secretary Andy Burnham welcomes the BBC Trust and Ofcom's inquiries.
- At 5.30pm Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemns the pranks and describes Ross and Brand's phone calls as "inappropriate and unacceptable".
- The BBC reveals that complaints topped the 10,000 mark by 6pm.
- Sachs tells the BBC his granddaughter "feels very guilty" and that Ross personally delivered the letter and flowers to him.
- At 10pm the Metropolitan Police confirms it has received complaints about the comments.
Wednesday 29 October
- Ms Baillie, 23, calls for Ross and Brand to be sacked. In an interview with The Sun, the aspiring model admits she has slept with Brand but labels the presenters "cruel sickos" for the messages.
- The parliamentary motion criticising the calls is signed by 13 MPs, with others indicating they will back it.
- Ross was understood to be filming his weekly BBC TV show Friday Night With Jonathan Ross. Guests Sir David Attenborough, Disney star Miley Cyrus and comedian Frank Skinner were expected to attend.
- At 11.30am the BBC announces it has suspended Ross and Brand. It also reveals the number of complaints has risen to 18,000. Describing the incident as a "gross lapse of taste", BBC Director-General Mark Thompson says: "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."
- Brand's spokesman says the star is preparing to fly to the US to make films.
- Tonight's recording of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross is cancelled, according to sources.