Ross ordered to stay off air for 3 months
And we won’t be paying for him
ARROGANT Jonathan Ross escaped with a slap on the wrist last night. But the respected head of Radio 2 became the scapegoat for the obscene phone prank he played on veteran actor Andrew Sachs. Station controller Lesley Douglas, who has revolutionised Radio 2’s fortunes and massively boosted its listeners, quit her post.
BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said this was Ross’s last chance – after he suspended the presenter for three months without pay.
He said: “I have spoken to Jonathan Ross and told him that his contribution to this programme was totally unacceptable. Jonathan should see this as a final warning.”
Ross enjoys an £18million deal over three years – which is funded by licence-fee payers. This is due to run out in 2010.
His suspension will allow him to walk away with his contract intact.
So far this year, Ross has earned £5million.
Yesterday’s suspension appeared to ignore public opinion, with 97 per cent of Daily Express readers believing Ross should be sacked.
Last night Mr Thompson said: “The ultimate editorial responsibility for BBC programmes lies with producers and editorial managers. The consequences of errors of judgment are therefore more serious for managers.
“Nonetheless, Jonathan Ross’s contribution to this edition of the Russell Brand show was utterly unacceptable and cannot be allowed to go uncensured or without sanction.
“A 12-week suspension is an exceptional step, but I believe it is a proportionate response to Jonathan’s role in this unhappy affair.”
He added: “He has made a comprehensive and unreserved personal apology to Andrew Sachs and his granddaughter.
“We agree that nothing like this must ever happen again and that tight discipline will be required for the future.”
A media insider explained: “The BBC have clearly come up with a way of hanging on to one of their best talents. They will be hoping the whole affair blows over and Ross can take up his prominent role in a few months’ time.
“But some licence-fee payers will be angry that he appears to have got off while someone else has been made the fall guy for his actions.”
The resignation of Mrs Douglas came after a meeting between Mr Thompson and the 12 BBC trustees. In her resignation letter she offered her “personal apology to Andrew Sachs, 78, and his family and to the audience for what has happened”.
She added: “The events of the last two weeks happened on my watch. I believe it is right that I take responsibility for what has happened.”
Last night Mr Thompson called Mr Sachs to offer his personal apology.
Mr Sachs still voiced his sympathy for Ross and Brand – and said he felt for Mrs Douglas. But he added: “They can’t complain.”
As complaints reached 35,700 yesterday, a quarter of people in an online poll said that they planned to boycott both Brand’s and Ross’s shows.