Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ross and Brand: BBC Trust statement

The BBC Trust has released a statement regarding the row over the lewd calls Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross made to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs on Radio 2.

Here is the statement in full:

The BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee met this morning. The Chairman of the BBC Trust was also present.

The committee received an interim report from the director general on the BBC management's investigation in to the Russell Brand show broadcast on 18 October.

The investigation by the BBC management followed complaints about the programme and the subsequent Russell Brand show on 25 October.

"The full Trust has also held a separate conference call today and endorsed this statement by Sir Michael Lyons made on behalf of the BBC Trust.

The BBC Trust represents licence fee payers and on their behalf has a responsibility to safeguard high standards of BBC broadcasts.

The Trust is dismayed both that the offensive comments broadcast on the Russell Brand Show on 18 October fell so far short of audiences' legitimate expectations, and by the deplorable intrusion in to the privacy of Mr Sachs and his granddaughter.

The transmission of these comments via a BBC Radio programme represents an abuse of the privilege given to the BBC to broadcast to its audiences.

On behalf of the BBC, the Trust offers a full and unreserved apology to Andrew Sachs, Georgina Baillie and the rest of his family. The Trust extends this apology to licence fee payers as a whole.

The Editorial Standards Committee will review these issues further at its meeting next week and the Trust has requested a final, written report from the director general at its next meeting on 20 November on all relevant issues.

However, we are satisfied that the information presented to us this morning is sufficient to reach initial conclusions and require an initial set of actions from the director general, as outlined below.

Personnel matters

The director general has made an interim report on the current investigation and what further steps will be taken.

Editorial Control and Compliance

Editorial control and compliance procedures in non-news areas of the BBC's Audio and Music department are inadequate and need to be strengthened.

We have asked the director general to present formal recommendations to strengthen editorial controls and compliance for the Trust's consideration at our December meeting. Once approved, the Trust will independently validate the effectiveness of these measures after they are implemented.

Furthermore, we have requested the Executive to strengthen immediately the editorial controls around any programme which represents high levels of editorial risk.

Also in this area, we have asked the Executive to assess immediately the editorial controls and compliance procedures in place for all programmes - across television and radio - where the production company is owned and/or managed by the featured performer.

Editorial boundaries and standards

This episode has underlined the importance of editorial boundaries for high-risk broadcast material. We will therefore make this a central plank of our scheduled review in 2009 of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines.

Key to this must be a common understanding within the BBC of what is acceptable and this must reflect widespread public opinion. We have asked the director general to engage his most senior editorial team on this topic.

There should be a shared understanding amongst the most senior staff of the BBC of how this failing arose and what is expected of them to ensure that the BBC's values are understood and the standards for quality are met.

Separately the Trust will take account of the views of all audiences before we consider whether the BBC's Editorial Guidelines need to change.

Apology

The Trust has required the Executive to issue an on-air apology to licence fee payers on BBC Radio 2 for the serious and deliberate breaches of the BBC Editorial Guidelines on Offence and Privacy.

The form and timing of the apology will be agreed by the Trust's Committee. We have also required the director general to write personally to Andrew Sachs and Georgina Baillie to apologise on behalf of the Corporation.

The Trust's job is to ensure that the BBC provides a wide range of programming to reflect a diverse society made up differing ages, interests and backgrounds.

In doing so however, it is essential that the BBC demonstrates its commitment to the highest level of editorial standards at all times.

The BBC has fallen way short of the public's overall expectations in this case, and it is essential that lessons are learned to avoid further lapses in the future.


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