BBC to issue on-air apology for "Manuelgate"

Fri Nov 7, 2008 1:22pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - British state broadcaster the BBC will issue on-air apologies on Radio 2 on Saturday for the "offensive" prank phone call made by star presenters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand which provoked thousands of complaints and a storm of protest.

During Brand's Radio 2 show on October 18, Brand and Ross left crude voicemail messages for 78-year-old actor Andrew Sachs during a radio show.

The presenters joked that Brand had slept with Georgina Baillie, the 23-year-old granddaughter of Sachs who played Spanish waiter Manuel in the cult British comedy TV series "Fawlty Towers."

Media coverage of the ensuing row, dubbed "Manuelgate" by newspapers, led to more than 30,000 complaints to the BBC and demands the two be sacked.

Brand and Lesley Douglas, the head of Radio 2, resigned while Ross, one of the corporation's highest paid stars, was suspended for 12 weeks without pay.

The BBC Trust, the body which oversees the broadcaster, ordered the corporation to broadcast an apology for serious breaches of editorial standards.

The BBC said this would be done on Radio 2 at the times when shows hosted by Brand and Russell were usually broadcast.

"On 18 October, the BBC broadcast an exchange between Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on the Russell Brand show on Radio 2. This concerned the actor Andrew Sachs and his granddaughter, Georgina Baillie," the apology will say.

"Some of this exchange was left on the voicemail of Mr Sachs. The conversation was grossly offensive and an unacceptable intrusion into the private lives of both Mr Sachs and Ms Baillie.   Continued...

<p>A logo for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is seen at its Broadcasting House in central London October 31, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>