Ross Suspended Over Prank Phone Call Furore

Jonathan Ross has been given a three-month ban from all BBC broadcasting for 12 weeks, amid controversy surrounding prank phone calls made to 'Fawlty Towers' actor Andrew Sachs, on Russell Brand's radio show.

Ross - the BBC's highest-paid star with a three-year, £18 million contract - was suspended from his TV and radio shows without pay, until mid-January next year.

Russell Brand resigned from his BBC Radio 2 programme on Wednesday, saying he accepted "complete responsibility" for the incident, adding: "As I only do the radio show to make people laugh I've decided that, given the subsequent coverage, I will stop doing the show."

Last night highly regarded Radio 2 Controller Lesley Douglas also resigned over the incident, saying she took "responsibility" for the phone calls, adding the decision to resign was hers alone.

In a letter to BBC director-general Mark Thompson, she wrote: "It is a matter of the greatest possible sadness to me that a programme on my network has been the cause of such a controversy."

The row erupted following the broadcast of Brand's show on Radio 2 on October 18, on which Ross was a guest.

The pair made a series of prank phone calls to Sachs, 78, who played Spanish waiter Manuel on 'Fawlty Towers'. He had been scheduled to give an interview to the show, but had to pull out due to unforeseen circumstances.

During the phone calls, Ross claimed that Brand slept with Sachs' granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, 23.

Mr Thompson said Jonathan Ross's contribution to the Russell Brand show was "utterly unacceptable" and there would be "tight discipline" in future.

He said: "A 12-week suspension is an exceptional step but I believe it is a proportionate response to Jonathan's role in this unhappy affair.

"We agree that nothing like this must ever happen again and that tight discipline will be required for the future.

"I believe Jonathan absolutely overstepped the mark. It doesn't mean that Jonathan can't, in future, continue to broadcast for the BBC. But he and everyone else should accept this is a final warning."

Jonathan Ross will also be stepping down from the 2008 British Comedy Awards, due to take place on 6 December, ITV1 have announced.

The BBC are hoping Ross's ban would draw a line under the row, which saw two complaints made during the airing of the radio show swell beyond 35,000, and drew mass debate reaching as far as Government, with the Tories calling for a Commons debate on the BBC's handling of the incident.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown also called the pair's behaviour "inappropriate and unacceptable", and backed an investigation.


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