Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Saturday, 1 November 2008

It's not all over yet

By Torin Douglas
Media correspondent, BBC News

BBC director general Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson has promised a full investigation of the facts

So where do things stand at the end of a week of crisis for the BBC?

The controller of Radio 2, Lesley Douglas, has resigned.

Jonathan Ross has been suspended without pay for three months.

Russell Brand has resigned.

Tighter editorial controls are to be introduced for the BBC's radio networks, with "high risk" programmes to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

The BBC Trust has ordered Radio 2 to broadcast an apology to listeners and licence-payers.

The director general Mark Thompson has been told to write a letter of apology to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs and his grand-daughter.

Russell Brand
Russell Brand took off for LA on Friday where his film career is blossoming

A review of editorial guidelines planned for next year will now focus on the "importance of editorial boundaries for high-risk broadcast material" - those "edgy" programmes that broadly divide older audiences from younger ones.

But it's not quite over yet.

The BBC is still investigating just how the offending programme was approved for broadcast, including the role of the Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas.

The director general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, revealed on Friday that she was aware of the contents of the controversial broadcast before it went to air, but had not heard it.

This may put things in a new perspective. Until now, it has been suggested that Ms Douglas resigned to protect more junior staff from being made scapegoats.

Presenters, politicians and broadcasting executives have spoken of their regret at her departure, saying licence fee payers would be poorer served without her.

Lesley Douglas
Former Radio 2 controller Douglas remains at the centre of the row

Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans said she was the best boss he had ever had. Fellow colleague Terry Wogan said he hoped her sacrifice would bring everything back down to earth and give a sense of proportion.

The former managing director of BBC Radio, Dame Liz Forgan, told Radio 5 Live: "Lesley Douglas is one of the outstanding broadcasters of her generation.

"She's probably brought more fun and happiness and pleasure to millions of licence payers than many people at the BBC, and I don't see how licence payers can possibly be served by her resignation.

"I think the BBC has lost its wits."

On Radio 2, the BBC director general said he had thought long and hard before accepting Douglas's resignation.

Questioned by Jeremy Vine, he said he had concluded it was the right thing to happen because she had been in overall charge of editorial compliance on the network and had known about the content of the programme.

Sir Terry Wogan
Wogan has expressed doubts as to whether Ross will return to the BBC

Vine said: "You've said already, yesterday, she didn't hear it. The producer obviously, actively involved, did hear it. Somewhere in between the two is another person - is there still a process going on?"

Thompson replied: "Yes. We're still looking in detail and talking to some of the people involved. But I think it's fair to say Lesley was aware of the key parts of the content of the programme."

Paul Gambaccini, who presents a weekly show on the network, said she'd stood by Russell Brand through thick and thin. He told Radio 5 Live he had warned Douglas about the dangers when she first hired Brand:

"In this profession, we never disparage a colleague - it's an unwritten rule. But when his hire was announced, I sent an email of protest to her, the only one I've ever sent in my entire career.

"I knew this would end in tears because it could only end in tears. When you pick up a time bomb one day it will explode, because that's what time bombs do."


There is a need for a clear understanding for where the boundaries lie

Sir Michael Lyons, BBC chairman

The part played by Douglas and other senior Radio 2 executives is crucial to an understanding of what happened, because it will clarify whether it was the BBC's procedures that were at fault or individuals' judgements - or a bit of both.

On Radio 4's Today, the BBC chairman Sir Michael Lyons said editorial control involved not just rules and guidelines but their interpretation: "There is a need for a clear understanding for where the boundaries lie, recognising that it's not a picket fence that we can all point to.

"Actually it is a matter of judgement - and if it weren't a matter of judgement, frankly we wouldn't need editors and controllers. That's their job to make those judgements."

The BBC Trust has asked Mr Thompson for a final report on how the programme came to be broadcast - and how to prevent such an incident happening again.



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