Russell Brand quits BBC radio show

Co-presenter Jonathan Ross suspended

Russell Brand quit his BBC radio show on Wednesday after the pubcaster suspended him and his celeb co-presenter Jonathan Ross following the public outcry over lewd remarks aired on the show.

BBC director-general Mark Thompson, who interrupted his Italian holiday to make a statement on the affair, said both would be banned from the BBC until he received a report on the incident.

The ban will have more impact on Ross than Brand, who has a diverse film and TV career.

Ross — one of the Beeb’s biggest stars and allegedly its highest paid — hosts a weekly latenight chatshow on BBC1 and presents his own weekly radio program.

The row centers on a pre-recorded item on Brand’s latenight radio show, broadcast Oct. 18, in which he and Ross left an off-color message on actor Andrew Sachs’ answering machine as a prank (Daily Variety, Oct. 28).

The message said that Brand had slept with Sachs’ 23-year-old granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, a model and performer with dance group the Satanic Sluts.

The public outcry over the broadcast, which attracted only a few complaints before the press got hold of the story, has astonished commentators. The BBC has received more than 18,000 complaints.

Even Prime Minister Gordon Brown has weighed in, accusing the broadcast of being “clearly unacceptable and inappropriate.”

On Wednesday, most of the British press, including the Times, led on what is being called “Sachsgate” while in BBC newscasts it has received greater prominence than the U.S. presidential election or the economic crisis.