Station controller Lesley Douglas steps down

The mounting public anger over the phone prank played by celebrities Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross during Brand’s BBC Radio 2 show claimed its first exec scalp on Thursday when station controller Lesley Douglas resigned.

Douglas said she took responsibility for the incident, in which the pair left lewd messages on veteran thesp Andrew Sachs’ answering machine saying that Brand had slept with Sachs’ 23-year-old granddaughter, Georgina Baillie.

In a letter to BBC director-general Mark Thompson, Douglas said: “It is a matter of the greatest possible sadness to me that a program on my network has been the cause of such a controversy.” She went on to apologize to Sachs, his family and the audience.

The BBC has received 27,000 complaints since the pre-recorded exchange was aired on Oct. 18, fanned by massive press coverage. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called the radio broacast “unacceptable and inappropriate.”

Brand quit on Wednesday after being banned pending a BBC probe, and Ross — allegedly one of the BBC’s highest-paid celebrity hosts — has been suspended for 12 weeks with no pay.

Douglas, a BBC veteran of 23 years, is reponsible for BBC Radio 2, Blighty’s most popualr radio network, and digital radio station BBC 6Music. Her job as controller of popular music also covers TV and online, as well as radio.

Thompson, whose own leadership has been brought into question by the controversy, said he accepted Douglas’ decision with “real sadness.”

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