Page last updated at 09:46 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

Ross radio joke defended by BBC

Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross was banned for 12 weeks for making lewd remarks on air

A joke by Jonathan Ross on his first Radio 2 show after his three-month suspension had "clearly no intention to offend anyone", the BBC has said.

While talking about an elderly Spanish neighbour of co-presenter Andy Davies, Ross joked he should "give her one last night before the grave".

The comment has increased media scrutiny on the star, appearing in several Sunday newspapers.

The BBC did not receive any complaints over the incident on Saturday.

During the exchange, Davies mentioned an elderly woman who kept kissing him while he was carrying out DIY at his Spanish home when Ross said: "I think you should just, for charity, give her one last night. One last night before the grave."

The BBC said there was no link to any specific individual and that the joke was part of a light-hearted conversation.

A spokesman said: "Regular listeners will be familiar with Jonathan's irreverence and innuendo.

Absolutely no offence to any individual was intended and, if the media wasn't hell bent on stirring up controversy, I'm sure none would be taken
Jonathan Ross

"This light-hearted exchange contained no offensive language, named no individuals and there was clearly no intention to offend anyone.

"Nothing broadcast by the BBC was linked to a specific individual or would allow the public to link these comments to an individual."

'Comedic purposes'

Ross told the News of the World that "absolutely no offence to any individual was intended".

He said: "It was a spontaneous, light-hearted remark made in response to an anecdote set in Spain, where no-one was named or ever likely to hear the broadcast.

"As far as I was concerned, the story may even have been apocryphal or exaggerated for comedic purposes, as is common practice on radio and comedy shows around the country.

"Absolutely no offence to any individual was intended and, if the media wasn't hell bent on stirring up controversy, I'm sure none would be taken."

Jonathan Ross
More than 5 million viewers tuned into watch Ross's TV return

Davies issued a statement denying that the joke in the show referred to a real individual and that the story was "poetic licence based on the warm and affectionate behaviour experienced in Spanish village life".

"I did not identify an individual because there isn't one," he added.

Conservative MP David Davies called for Ross to be replaced.

"On Radio 2 you don't expect X-rated references to sex - and especially sex with an 80-year-old - during the day," he said.

"He should have gone ages ago. There's no way this man should be on the air. He needs to be replaced now.

"It's obscene, especially given the amount of money Ross is being paid. It could also be highly offensive to this woman if she's a real person."

More than five million viewers tuned in to watch Ross's return to television on Friday, during which he interviewed actor Tom Cruise.

He was returning after a 12-week suspension for his part in a series of lewd phone messages to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs.

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