CORRECTED: BBC star escapes further sanction over prank call

Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:08pm EST
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Corrects word in quote in first and penultimate paragraphs to “grossly” from “dreadfully”

By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The BBC's supervisory body said prank telephone calls by TV host Jonathan Ross and comedian Russell Brand were "so grossly offensive" they should never have been broadcast, but did not call for Ross to be sacked.

The BBC Trust described the calls broadcast on Brand's radio show as a "deplorable intrusion" into the private lives of actor Andrew Sachs and his granddaughter.

But it said on Friday that it was happy with the action proposed by the publicly funded British broadcaster's bosses.

More than 40,000 people contacted the BBC to complain about Brand's October 18 Radio 2 show containing the lewd calls to Sachs, who played Spanish waiter Manuel in the classic 1970s comedy "Fawlty Towers."

The presenters left messages on the actor's mobile phone joking that Brand had slept with Georgina Baillie, Sachs's 23-year-old granddaughter.

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

BBC Trust Chairman Michael Lyons said it was not the Trust's job to decide which shows or artists appear on the BBC and that it was content with the sanction already imposed on Ross.   Continued...

<p>A tattered flag flies in a strong breeze above the BBC headquarters in London November 21, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>