Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross are to be suspended from broadcasting on the BBC until an investigation into their telephone prank is completed.

The corporation's director general Mark Thompson has confirmed he will await the results of an internal investigation concerning the presenters' prank calls to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs in which they joked about having sex with Sachs' granddaughter during a pre-recorded show, broadcast on October 18th.

MPs and the girl at the centre of the row had earlier called for the pair to be sacked over the prank.

Mr Thompson offered a "personal and unreserved apology to Andrew Sachs, his family and to licence fee payers" over the incident.

He said BBC audiences accepted that comedy performers attempted to "push the line of taste" but agreed it had become clear that the incident had caused "severe offence", a view he shared.

Tim Davie, the BBC's audio and music director, has been tasked with conducting an investigation into the incident, the findings of which Mr Thompson will review.

"I have decided that it is not appropriate for either Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross to continue broadcasting on the BBC until I have seen the full report of the actions of all concerned," the director general continued.

"This gross lapse of taste by the performers and the production team has angered licence payers. I am determined that we satisfy them that any lessons will be learnt and appropriate action taken."

The findings of the report will be discussed with the BBC Trust, he confirmed.

Georgina Bailie, the subject of Brand and Ross' prank voicemails, told the Sun newspaper the BBC radio hosts "should at least pay for what they've done with their jobs".

The Conservative party's media spokesman Jeremy Hunt called for an investigation into the editorial policy that allowed the broadcast.

And prime minister Gordon Brown has also criticised the pair for their "inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour".

Ms Baillie, 23, admitted to feeling "betrayed" and "embarrassed" that her relationship with Brand had been publicly revealed to her grandfather.

She said he was "really upset, and says he wants the whole situation to end".

"They are beyond contempt," she said of Brand and Ross. "They are warped for what they have put me and my grandfather through.

"It was bad enough that they recorded these things on my grandfather's answer machine but astonishing the BBC saw fit to broadcast it when they could have stopped it.

"Someone high up at the BBC must have decided it was funny and suitable for national radio. They've shown an appalling lack of judgment."

Sachs, 78, confirmed he had received "very apologetic" notes from both presenters.

"They are in trouble now, I don't want to put any more pressure on them," he told Metro.

29/10/2008 11:53:20