Page last updated at 15:42 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Ross pulls out of Comedy Awards

Jonathan Ross
Ross had been due to present the awards on 6 December

Jonathan Ross has stepped down from presenting the 2008 British Comedy Awards, ITV1 has announced.

The broadcaster said it backed the presenter's decision in the wake of the Radio 2 row concerning prank calls made to Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs.

Ross, 47, has been suspended from all BBC programmes for 12 weeks without pay as a result of the calls, which were made on Russell Brand's Radio 2 show.

The British Comedy Awards are set to be broadcast live on ITV1 on 6 December.

The ceremony is expected to go ahead, though no decision has been made over who will replace him.

The awards are in their 18th year and this would have been Ross's 17th year as host.

'Full support'

It had been reported that Ross would receive at least 100,000 for presenting the ceremony.

Jimmy Carr
Jimmy Carr said Ross was a "national treasure"

A spokesman for the entertainer said the British Comedy Awards was "a show he very much enjoys being part of."

However, he added, Ross did "not want his participation in this year's event to take away from the awards themselves or the many talented winners".

Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, said his decision had been made "with the full support of ITV and the show's producers".

Last year's ceremony was not shown on TV following a phone-in voting irregularity which was uncovered on the 2005 show.

Viewers had been invited to vote in a section of the show which was broadcast with a half-hour time delay, despite the fact the winner had already been announced at the event.

Ross provoked fury among the BBC's senior management by joking during last year's show that his 6 million annual salary was "worth 1,000 BBC journalists".

'Good broadcaster'

Meanwhile, at Ross's home on Friday morning, preparations were taking place for the star's annual Halloween party.

Asked whether Ross would be at the party, his wife, author Jane Goldman, said: "It's my children's Halloween party."

Comedian Jimmy Carr, who was seen entering the Hampstead home, expressed his support for Ross, saying the issue had been been blown out of proportion and that Ross was a "national treasure".

It will be interesting to see how he manages given the damage to this radio station
Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine

Speaking on Radio 4's The World At One, film producer and Channel 4 deputy chairman Lord Puttnam also gave his support for the presenter saying: "I like Jonathan Ross, he's a good broadcaster and a nice man.

"The biggest problem is the sheer breadth of what he's being asked to do - he's being urged to pretend he's 25."

Fellow Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine said he thought Ross would find returning from his BBC suspension difficult.

"It will be interesting to see how he manages given the damage to this radio station," he told BBC News.

"I'm going to be interested to see that - I'm not quite sure how it's going to work."

Russell Brand flew out the UK on Friday to fulfil work commitments in the US.

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