A BBC Trust report on the controversy surrounding lewd telephone calls made by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand has declared the incident grossly offensive and impossible to justify.

More than 37,000 complaints were received by the corporation last month after the pair left offensive voicemails on the answerphone of veteran actor Andrew Sachs.

Richard Tait, the trust's editorial standards spokesman, said the broadcast of the calls represented a "catalogue of editorial management failures".

Ross was suspended for three months without pay while Brand resigned, along with Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas.

While BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons has supported Ross' 12-week suspension, he said today that no further action would be taken.

A pre-recorded edition of Brand's Saturday evening radio show, broadcast on October 18th, featured the pair leaving a number of voicemails for Fawlty Towers actor Sachs.

The messages included swearing and remarks about Brand having slept with Sachs' 23-year-old granddaughter Georgina Baillie.

The trust's report said the voicemails signified a "deplorable intrusion" into Sachs' and Baillie's privacy, and added that there was "no editorial justification" for the broadcast.

Mr Tait said three main failures typified the development of the affair - that of exercising editorial control; following established compliance systems and taking editorial decisions.

"Proper editorial control might have prevented the material ever being recorded in the first place and, had the established compliance systems been followed and the correct editorial judgement applied, the material would not have been broadcast," he explained.

An "unacceptable, so-called apology" broadcast by Brand on October 25th was considered by the trust to have 'exacerbated the intrusion into privacy and the offence'," Mr Tait added.

He also criticised Brand appearance's on the breakfast programme of Radio 1's Chris Moyles and the featured discussion of the voicemails left for Sachs.

This, in itself, represented a breach of editorial guidelines in respect of privacy and offence, and was broadcast at a time when children were likely to be listening.

After the incident was publicised by the Mail on Sunday newspaper, thousands of people complained while the affair was commented upon in parliament.

Brand and Ross were initially suspended for three days, but the former soon resigned, taking "complete responsibility" for the broadcast.

Ross' suspension followed, while Ms Douglas and Radio 2's head of specialist music and compliance David Barber also resigned.


21/11/2008 12:29:23