January 7, 2010 / 12:36 PM / in 8 years

Controversial presenter Jonathan Ross to quit BBC

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Jonathan Ross, one of the BBC’s highest-paid stars, announced on Thursday that he would not be renegotiating his contract.

It comes just over a year after he was suspended by BBC bosses for “grossly offensive” prank calls he made with comedian Russell Brand to “Fawlty Towers” actor Andrew Sachs.

Ross, whose salary was around 6 million pounds ($10 million) a year according to media reports, insisted money was not a motive.

“Although I have had a wonderful time working for the BBC, and am very proud of the shows I have made while there, over the last two weeks I have decided not to re-negotiate when my current contract comes to an end,” he said in a statement reported by media.

“I would like to make it perfectly clear that no negotiations ever took place and that my decision is not financially motivated.”

Ross currently hosts a Friday night show on BBC1, a film review program, and also presents a radio show on Saturday mornings.

He said he would continue working on these projects until his contract ended in the summer, and would also continue to host the Bafta Film Awards, Comic Relief and other BBC specials.

Several well-paid BBC presenters have agreed to take pay cuts recently as the publicly owned broadcaster comes under pressure to rein in spending amid the economic downturn.

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson was forced to defend his own 834,000 pound-salary this month in a long-running row over what critics say are excessive salaries at the corporation.

Ross said: “I signed my current contract with the BBC having turned down more lucrative offers from other channels because it was where I wanted to be and -- as I have said before -- would happily have stayed there for any fee they cared to offer, but there were other considerations.”

He was suspended without pay for 12 weeks and Brand sacked after widespread outrage following the prank calls to Sachs on the radio in October 2008.

More than 40,000 people complained about the show in which Ross joked about Brand sleeping with the actor’s burlesque dancer granddaughter Georgina Baillie.

Ross apologized and returned to TV screens in January last year, but commentators said he might have to tone down his flamboyant and sometimes controversial style on the instruction of BBC chiefs.

“Jonathan Ross has told us that he’s decided not to pursue the renewal of his contract with the BBC,” said Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision.

“Jonathan is an extremely talented broadcaster and his programs for BBC TV and Radio have been a great success. However, it’s been a difficult year for him and I understand why he feels it’s the right thing to do.”

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison

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