Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Friday, 3 April 2009 11:11 UK

Timeline: Russell Brand prank calls

Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross, Andrew Sachs and Georgina Baillie
The players: Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross, Andrew Sachs and Georgina Baillie

Prank phone calls made to actor Andrew Sachs - Manuel in TV show Fawlty Towers - by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross prompted a major row that led to Brand quitting his Radio 2 show.

Station controller Lesley Douglas resigned, Radio 2's head of compliance quit, and Ross was suspended for three months without pay.

The BBC Trust later said there was "no justification" for the show, and the incident exposed "a catalogue of errors" at Radio 2. Material from the trust's report is included in italics.

This is how the story unfolded.


Warning: This account contains transcripts of the calls which include language that some readers may find offensive.

THURSDAY 16 OCTOBER

Brand records his show, with Jonathan Ross as a guest co-presenter, to be broadcast two days later.

Russel Brand
Brand achieved mainstream fame after presenting E4's Big Brother's Big Mouth

Early in the show, Ross jokes about an interview planned with Sachs telling Brand that "I had a go on his daughter" would be "the sort of thing you'd say".

Brand replies that he knows Sachs' granddaughter - 23-year-old Georgina Baillie - and says she has visited his home and that she is a member of "a baroque dance group called the satanicsluts.com".

He continues: "She always said to me, 'don't mention that to my granddad Manuel', and now here we are.

"So when we talk to Manuel, don't mention that his granddaughter's a satanic slut."

After it emerges that Sachs will not now be on the show due to unforeseen circumstances, listeners hear Brand and Ross leave four messages on the actor's voicemail.

Here are extracts from those messages:

Message one: As Brand begins to leave a message, Ross blurts out: "He fucked your granddaughter... I'm sorry I apologise. Andrew, I apologise, I got excited, what can I say - it just came out."

Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross is the BBC's highest-paid entertainer

Brand replies: "Andrew Sachs, I did not do nothing with Georgina - oh no, I've revealed I know her name. Oh no, it's a disaster."

Ross goes on to say: "If he's like most people of a certain age, he's probably got a picture of his grandchildren when they're young right by the phone. So while he's listening to the messages, he's looking at a picture of her about nine on a swing..."

Message two: "Andrew, this is Russell Brand. I'm so sorry about the last message, it was part of the radio show - it was a mistake."

Ross adds: "It might be true but we didn't want to break it to you in such a harsh way."

Brand goes on to say: "No, I'm sorry, I'll do anything. I wore a condom. Put the phone down. Oh, what's going to happen?"

Message three: The message opens with Ross saying: "She was bent over the couch..."

Brand then improvises a song which includes the lines: "I said some things I didn't of oughta, like I had sex with your granddaughter..."

Message four: Brand opens the message with: "Alright Andrew Sachs' answer phone? I'm ever so so sorry for what I said about Andrew Sachs."

"Just say sorry," adds Ross,

"I'll kill you," says Brand laughing.

"Don't say you'll wear him as a hat - just say sorry," continues Ross.

"Sorry, right," adds Brand.

According to the BBC Trust report, the show's producer - a BBC employee "on loan" to Brand's firm Vanity Projects - was "shocked" by the initial exhange, but decided to resolve the issues with the content at the show's editing stage.

Andrew Sachs was, at the time, at the BBC's Maida Vale studios recording a Sherlock Holmes mystery. He heard some of the material on the answerphone, although not all of it. He managed to contact the studio, but says he was told it was too late to be put through to Brand and Ross.

Jonathan Ross says he said the material could only be included with the consent of Sachs and Baillie. Brand is thought to have left a voicemail message for Baillie apologising for what he had said to her grandfather.

THURSDAY 16 OCTOBER

The show's producer telephones Andrew Sachs. Their accounts of the conversation differ. The producer said Sachs gave his consent to broadcast, Sachs said he demurred. Both said the content needed toning down.

They also discussed a future appearance on the programme - Sachs believing this would be in place of the material already recorded.

"No steps appear to have been taken to obtain informed consent from Ms Baillie," the Trust says.

The producer wrote to Radio 2's head of compliance, David Barber, highlighting the issues with the calls.

"Andrew Sachs AKA Manuel is aware of it and happy... it makes for some brilliantly funny radio. Russ and Jonathan both VERY keen for it to go out."

Mr Barber listens to the material twice and e-mails Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas recommending it is aired with a warning.

FRIDAY 17 OCTOBER

Ms Douglas sends a one-word reply to authorise transmission of the material: "Yes.".

She told the trust her head of compliance had "never got it wrong before".

SATURDAY 18 OCTOBER

The show is broadcast between 2100 and 2300 BST. It opens with this warning: "The next programme contains some strong language which some listeners may find offensive."

The producer had not submitted a compliance form, and the show had not been listened in full and signed off by a Radio 2 executive, in breach of BBC rules.

SUNDAY 19 OCTOBER

Two complaints are received about the programme - one referring directly to the material about Mr Sachs.

WEDNESDAY 22 OCTOBER

Sachs' agent Meg Pool is alerted to the contents of the broadcast when a journalist for the Mail on Sunday phones her for a comment.

Georgina Baillie Photo: Paul Vought
Sachs was taunted about Brand's alleged liaison with Georgina Baillie

She and Sachs listen to an online recording of the show which leaves the actor "offended very much indeed".

Also on Wednesday, in an interview with the BBC to promote his new football book Articles of Faith, Brand says: "I'm really enjoying the Radio 2 show.

"I did the last one with Jonathan Ross. He said the f-word and got us into a lot of trouble.

"But when working with any experienced broadcaster like Jonathan Ross, you fly by the seat of your pants - that's often the nature of it."

THURSDAY 23 OCTOBER

Ms Pool e-mails and writes to Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas asking for an unreserved apology.

SATURDAY 25 OCTOBER

Brand apologises on his radio show for offending Sachs saying "you mustn't swear on someone's answer phone" but adding that it was "funny".

SUNDAY 26 OCTOBER

The Mail on Sunday reports that "the BBC could face prosecution over obscene phone calls" to Sachs.

The story is also picked up by many news websites.

The BBC says it is "not aware of receiving a complaint from Mr Sachs".

MONDAY 27 OCTOBER

The story rises up the news agenda, and the BBC says it has received a further 1,585 complaints about the show.

A BBC Radio 2 spokeswoman apologises to Sachs saying: "We have received a letter of complaint from Mr Sachs' agent and would like to sincerely apologise to Mr Sachs for the offence caused.

Andrew Sachs
The BBC apologised to Sachs for the "unacceptable and offensive" calls

"We recognise that some of the content broadcast was unacceptable and offensive. We are reviewing how this came about and are responding to Mr Sachs personally.

"We also apologise to listeners for any offence caused."

Ross sends a personal apology to Sachs. It is understood Brand plans to do the same.

TUESDAY 28 OCTOBER

0900 GMT: The total number of complaints rises to 4,772.

A spokeswoman for Brand says he has "issued a private apology to Mr Sachs", but Sachs tells the BBC he has yet to receive such an apology.

1030 GMT: Media regulator Ofcom announces an investigation into the show, saying all BBC broadcasters must adhere to its broadcasting code.

The code says broadcasters "must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context".

David Cameron
David Cameron called for the BBC to be more transparent

1130 GMT: A spokesman for the corporation's governing body, the BBC Trust, says its editorial standards committee has requested a report from BBC management about the affair.

1200 GMT: Conservative leader David Cameron calls for the BBC to be "transparent" about how the programme came to be broadcast.

"We need to know who made the decision to broadcast it," he says. "How high up the editorial chain did it go?"

1430 GMT: Culture secretary Andy Burnham says he is glad the BBC has apologised and that the corporation is investigating the matter.

"I, and I think the public, expect these inquiries to be carried out thoroughly and as a matter of urgency."

1700 GMT: BBC audio and music director Tim Davie says it is "too early to speculate" on whether Brand or Ross will face action.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sachs tells the BBC the show's producer called him on the day of recording to ask if he could use the sequence in question.

He continued: "The signal was poor and I couldn't really hear what was being played down the line to me.

Gordon Brown
The Prime Minister gave his opinion on the controversy

"But I asked whether they would consider allowing me to come in the following week and then the recorded segment would not have to be included."

Ross had "personally delivered a letter of apology and some flowers" since the broadcast, he added, but the actor had not heard anything from Brand.

1745 GMT: Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls the incident "clearly inappropriate and unacceptable".

The total amount of complaints passes 10,000.

WEDNESDAY 29 OCTOBER

Georgina Baillie tells the Sun newspaper that Brand and Ross should "pay for what they've done with their jobs", branding them "beyond contempt".

"Someone high up at the BBC must have decided it was funny and suitable for national radio. They've shown an appalling lack of judgement."

By 1000 GMT, the number of complaints reaches 18,000.

1130 GMT: BBC director general Mark Thompson announces that both Ross and Brand have been suspended while an investigation into the incident is carried out.

Recording of Ross's chat show, due to take place on Wednesday evening, is duly cancelled.

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson suspended Jonathan Ross

1300 GMT: Russell Brand tells reporters outside his London home: "It would be silly of me to speak without thinking, because that's caused all this trouble in the first place. I am sorry that I upset Mr Sachs."

1350 GMT: Andrew Sachs tells reporters he is "not surprised" to hear of the stars' suspension. Asked if he was going to take the matter up with the police, he says: "I'm not going to take it anywhere, I'm not out for revenge."

1700 GMT: Jonathan Ross publicly apologises for the incident, saying he "greatly regrets" the upset and distress caused.

1730 GMT: Georgina Baillie says she is "thrilled" to hear Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have been suspended. In an interview published on the Sun's website she says: "Me and my grandad are both really happy."

1745 GMT: Russell Brand announces he intends to quit his Saturday evening Radio 2 show. He apologises to Andrew Sachs for the comments, and to his Radio 2 listeners.

1800 GMT: Andrew Sachs says he "respects" Brand's decision to quit his BBC radio show.

1830 GMT: The total number of complaints passes 27,000.

THURSDAY 30 OCTOBER

1000 GMT: Mark Thompson meets the BBC Trust to brief the corporation's governing body on his preliminary inquiry into the affair.

Noel Gallagher
Noel Gallagher appeared regularly on the Russell Brand radio show

1130 GMT: The number of complaints stands at 30,500.

1200 GMT: In an interview for BBC Radio Ulster's Across The Line, Noel Gallagher - Oasis guitarist and frequent guest on Russell Brand's show - defends the comedian.

"It's so typical of the English in general - 10,000 people get outraged, but only five days after it has happened," he said.

"You know what? There's now a massive divide. Them and us."

1750 GMT: Lesley Douglas resigns.

"The events of the last two weeks happened on my watch," her resignation letter reads. "I believe it is right that I take responsibility for what has happened."

Director general Mark Thompson accepts Ms Douglas's resignation with "real sadness".


1821 GMT: Jonathan Ross is suspended for 12 weeks without pay, the BBC announces.

Chris Evans
Chris Evans was upset Lesley Douglas resigned

The number of complaints stands at 37,500.

2000 GMT: Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans is visibly upset as he pays tribute to "best boss in the world" Lesley Douglas.

"We understand the severity of what's gone on," he tells reporters. "It was a huge mistake and we all wish it hadn't have happened."

FRIDAY 31 OCTOBER

0800 GMT: Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, begins a round of interviews on BBC News outlets with an appearance on Radio 4's Today programme.

Sir Michael identifies "a need for further tightening of editorial controls" particularly when dealing with "provocative material".

However, he says this should not prevent the BBC from taking risks.

1000 GMT: Radio 2 DJ Sir Terry Wogan comments on the departure of controller Lesley Douglas, saying he hopes "her sacrifice will bring everything back down to earth a little bit".

Sir Terry Wogan
Sir Terry Wogan commented on his former boss Lesley Douglas resigning

Fellow presenter Jeremy Vine, meanwhile, says it will be "interesting" to see how Jonathan Ross finds returning to Radio 2 following his suspension.

"Given the damage to this radio station... I'm not quite sure how it's going to work."

1330 GMT: Jonathan Ross announces he will not present this year's British Comedy Awards.

WEDNESDAY 5 NOVEMBER

Andrew Sachs' granddaughter Georgina Ballie told TV channel Five Russell Brand's resignation and the suspension of Jonathan Ross were "out of proportion".

The 23-year-old said the world without Ross and Brand would be "a very, sad dull place".

THURSDAY 6 NOVEMBER

Lord Carter and Sir David
Lord Carter and Sir David are the latest to comment on the controversy

Broadcasting minister Lord Carter of Barnes accused the BBC of reacting "unacceptably slow" to the Russell Brand-Jonathan Ross calls row.

However, he said "the BBC, its Trust and the industry regulator are now all doing what they are there to do".

Sir David Frost also commented on the controversy, saying it was "inexplicable" that the lewd phone calls had been broadcast.

FRIDAY 7 NOVEMBER

David Barber resigns.

SUNDAY 9 NOVEMBER

BBC Radio 2 broadcasts an apology for the lewd phone calls.

The apology is aired at 1003 GMT, when Jonathan Ross's show would have gone out, and a fuller version is broadcast again at 2113 GMT during Russell Brand's former slot.

Meanwhile, Russell Brand admits the pre-recorded show that had been broadcast had, in fact, been toned down.

He tells The Observer the worst bits were cut out before the broadcast and he was told Andrew Sachs had agreed to it going out.

TUESDAY 18 NOVEMBER

Director general Mark Thompson admits to MPs that "a very serious editorial lapse" had occurred. BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons denied the corporation had been slow in its response to the incident, but admitted lessons could be learned.

FRIDAY 21 NOVEMBER

Ross and Brand's calls to Sachs were a "deplorable intrusion with no editorial justification", the BBC Trust says after publishing a report into the incident.

It adds a list of high-risk radio programmes should be put together to help prevent a repeat of the incident.

It also recommends tougher penalties for staff who do not comply with editorial guidelines, and that there should be tighter controls on shows made by companies owned by their performers.

The trust also upholds complaints about an edition of BBC One's Friday Night With Jonathan Ross from May, in which which Ross swore in conversation with actress Gwyneth Paltrow and TV personality Michael Aspel.

FRIDAY 3 APRIL

Ofcom fines the BBC £150,000 over the calls made to Sachs.

The media regulator said the fine reflected "the extraordinary nature and seriousness of the BBC's failures" and the "resulting breaches" of its code.

The BBC said it accepted Ofcom's findings and added that the material "should never have been broadcast".



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