BBC star steps down from show on rival broadcaster

Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:07am EDT
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British television star Jonathan Ross has backed out of presenting an awards show because of the furor caused by crude prank phone calls he made with another presenter on a BBC radio show, ITV said on Friday.

The 47-year-old TV chat show host's decision to step down from ITV's 2008 British Comedy awards program -- a show he was reportedly to be paid 100,000 pounds to host -- follows his three-month suspension without pay by the BBC.

"We respect Jonathan's decision to stand down from the 2008 British Comedy Awards which has been made with the full support of ITV and the show's producers," said ITV director of television Peter Fincham in a statement.

A spokesman for Jonathan Ross added: "It's a show he very much enjoys being part of but would not want his participation in this year's event to take away from the awards themselves or the many talented winners of the awards." The BBC is hoping its decision to suspend Ross, one of its highest paid presenters, will end the crisis that also prompted the head of Radio 2 Lesley Douglas to quit.

The BBC acted on Thursday after the "deplorable" messages left on actor Andrew Sachs's phone by Ross and British comedian Russell Brand drew 30,000 complaints, criticism from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and media condemnation of its handling of the episode.

Following an emergency meeting between BBC Director-General Mark Thompson and the BBC Trust, the BBC's independent governing body, Ross was suspended without pay but kept his job for what Thompson described as his "utterly unacceptable" behavior.

With Thompson telling Ross he was on a "final warning," Douglas, who was appointed controller of the music and chat station in 2003, then made the decision to quit.

The prank had already led to the resignation of Brand, 33, a flamboyant comic who has branched out into acting in Hollywood films including the romantic comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."   Continued...

<p>A combination photo shows Jonathan Ross (L) as he arrives at the Business Design Centre to attend the 51st British Academy Film Awards April 11, 1999 and Russell Brand during a news conference previewing the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards in Hollywood September 4, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs/ Phil McCarten</p>