Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

BBC to make prank row statements

BBC director general Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson is quizzed by the media ahead of the meeting

The BBC Trust and director general Mark Thompson will issue separate statements about the lewd comments made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on Radio 2.

Thompson and the corporation's governing body spent several hours discussing the issue on Thursday.

The director general presented an interim report on the event and how the calls made by Brand and Ross to actor Andrew Sachs came to be aired.

Brand has resigned from Radio 2 and Ross has been suspended.

The pair made obscene comments about Sachs' 23-year-old granddaughter Georgina Baillie during phone calls.

The BBC's director of audio and music, Tim Davie, presented a preliminary report on the calls to the trust, which represents the interests of licence fee payers.

'Wrest control'

Mr Thompson briefed trust members on latest developments, followed by a discussion on what action should be taken.

The calls were criticised by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Tuesday. His spokesman said he welcomed the fact that action was being taken.

"It is for the BBC, the BBC Trust and Ofcom to take action. That has clearly happened," he said.

Some 30,500 complaints had been received by the corporation by Thursday morning.

The BBC's media correspondent, Torin Douglas, said the BBC was perceived as having "lost control" of events following the broadcast and the subsequent row, which saw broadcast watchdog Ofcom launch its own investigation.

Russell Brand: 'It was a really stupid thing to do"

"The BBC is now trying to wrest control back," he added. "People are saying the BBC should have acted more quickly."

Fawlty Towers actor, Sachs, 78, was upset after Brand and Ross left a series of lewd messages on his voicemail as part of a pre-recorded show, taped on 16 October.

During the calls, Ross swore and said Brand had slept with Sachs' granddaughter.

Sachs later said he had "respect" for Brand's decision to step down.

Brand, who is believed to have been paid more than 200,000 a year for his Saturday-night show, said in a statement that he took "complete responsibility" for the incident.

'Stupid error'

"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," he said.

Jonathan Ross
It was a stupid error of judgement on my part and I offer a full apology
Jonathan Ross

"I got a bit caught up in the moment and forgot that, at the core of the rude comments and silly songs, were the real feelings of a beloved and brilliant comic actor and a very sweet and big-hearted young woman."

Dermot O'Leary, who also presents a show on Radio 2, said of Brand's resignation: "It's really sad, he was brilliant on the radio.

"He's a lovely lad, a nice colleague. It was a bit silly what he said, but then it was a pre-recorded show so there's a debate to be had over whether the buck stops with him or not," he added.

Speaking to BBC News at the National Television Awards, X Factor judge Louis Walsh said he was "glad" the two presenters had "been put in their place".

"It's about time. Jonathan Ross does and says what he wants and gets away with it," he said.

Meanwhile, Ross said in a statement: "I am deeply sorry, and greatly regret the upset and distress that my juvenile and thoughtless remarks on the Russell Brand show have caused."

HAVE YOUR SAY
If the BBC's governing body is to make any claim to upholding standards of decency, Mr Ross should be subject to instant dismissal
M J Covell, Pinner

He said he had not issued a statement before because he had intended to apologise "to all those offended" on his Friday night chat show.

"However, it was a stupid error of judgement on my part and I offer a full apology," it added.

BBC One show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, which was due to have been filmed at BBC Television Centre, west London, on Wednesday, has been cancelled. The 1994 film Speed will be shown in its place.

Ross Saturday morning radio show has also been pulled from Radio 2's schedules.

His regular slot will be occupied by Richard Allinson.

A Sunday morning repeat of Ross's Film 2008 is being substituted with an edition of natural history programme Wild, but a decision about Wednesday's show has not yet been taken.

Alex Lester, Radio 2's weekday morning presenter, has been announced as the station's new Saturday late night host, replacing Brand.

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