The BBC Trust, the pubcaster’s governing body, has said star presenter Jonathan Ross can keep his job despite two instances of lewdness that have also called the BBC’s editorial judgment into question.
At a packed press conference on Friday, BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons ruled out further disciplinary action against Ross, suspended this month for 12 weeks without pay following suggestive phone calls to thesp Andrew Sachs that he and comedian Russell Brand made during the latter’s BBC Radio 2 show.
Brand quit after being suspended indefinitely, while Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas and the station’s head of compliance both resigned.
Lyons said the phone calls, which informed Sachs that Brand had slept with his granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, a member of the Satanic Sluts burlesque act, were “grossly offensive.”
The pubcaster received 40,000 complaints about the incident, which the British press dubbed “Sachsgate.”
The Trust also upheld a complaint against Ross involving Gwyneth Paltrow on his “Friday Night With Jonathan Ross” talkshow in May, in which he told the actress that he “would fuck her.” The Trust said the bad language was “gratuitous and unnecessarily offensive.”
In both cases, BBC management had reviewed the shows and passed them for broadcast.
In a 58-page report on incidents of editorial lapses at the BBC, the Trust highlighted “a catalog of editorial management failures” that was “shocking,” according to the Trust’s chairman of editorial standards, Richard Tait.
However, Lyons added, “We have underlined very clearly that it is not the job of the Trust to make decisions about the terms and conditions of performers or the sanctions that are applied to them when they are found to be wanting. We are very clear that the director general has taken the right action with respect to Jonathan Ross.”
It remains to be seen if more heads will roll at the BBC, but one experienced U.K. broadcaster said that despite Lyons’ public defense of director-general Mark Thompson, his job is increasingly at risk.
This is because the Trust made it quite clear in its report that BBC management failed in its duty as a “publisher.”