Jonathan Ross in fresh radio joke row
Published 25/01/2009 | 13:17
The BBC said today there was "clearly no intention to offend anyone" as a joke by Jonathan Ross on his comeback radio show put him at the centre of a fresh row.
The under-fire presenter appeared to joke about having sex with an 80-year-old woman on his return after a 12-week suspension for broadcasting lewd messages with comedian Russell Brand on BBC's Radio 2.
But the BBC insisted there was no link to any specific individual and that the joke was part of a light-hearted exchange.
Ross, whose live Saturday morning slot on Radio 2 has been covered by Richard Allinson since the presenter was suspended in late October, returned at 10am yesterday with the words: "It's me, back on Radio 2."
Later, after co-presenter Andy Davies mentioned an elderly woman kept kissing and cuddling him while he was carrying out DIY at his Spanish home, Ross joked: "I think you should just, for charity, give her one last night.
"One last night before the grave. Would it kill you?"
A BBC spokesman said: "Regular listeners will be familiar with Jonathan's irreverence and innuendo.
"This light-hearted exchange contained no offensive language, named no individuals and there was clearly no intention to offend anyone.
"Nothing broadcast by the BBC was linked to a specific individual or would allow the public to link these comments to an individual."
Mr Davies himself issued a statement denying that the joke in the show referred to a real individual.
"The story was poetic licence based on the warm and affectionate behaviour experienced in Spanish village life. I did not identify an individual because there isn't one," he said.
The BBC said it had received three complaints over the exchange.
Conservative MP David Davies called for Ross to be replaced.
"On Radio 2 you don't expect X-rated references to sex - and especially sex with an 80-year-old - during the day," he told the News of the World.
"He should have gone ages ago. There's no way this man should be on the air. He needs to be replaced now.
"It's obscene, especially given the amount of money Ross is being paid. It could also be highly offensive to this woman if she's a real person."
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett also called for Ross to donate some of his pay to charity.
In a statement issued to the News of the World, Ross said: "It was a spontaneous, light-hearted remark made in response to an anecdote set in Spain, where no-one was named or ever likely to hear the broadcast.
"As far as I was concerned, the story may even have been apocryphal or exaggerated for comedic purposes, as is common practice on radio and comedy shows around the country.
"Absolutely no offence to any individual was intended and, if the media wasn't hell bent on stirring up controversy, I'm sure none would be taken."