BBC Trust makes call on Jonathan Ross

Submits its report on phone message incident

LONDON -- Jonathan Ross apparently has been punished enough.

The BBC Trust said Friday that it will take no further action against its most highly paid TV presenter, despite issuing a damning report on the circumstances that gave rise to the broadcast of obscene calls made by Ross and Russell Brand on BBC Radio 2.

In what amounts to a slamming of BBC editorial standards and management, Trust chairman Michael Lyons said that the BBC's oversight committee had found successive failures of compliance and editorial control relating to the incident and other shows on BBC television and radio.

"The primary failing is one of editorial judgment and that is an issue for the BBC, it is not primarily an issue for the performer, although they must bear some responsibility," Lyons said.

BBC director general Mark Thomson has yet to comment on the deeply critical report, but a statement is expected late Friday according to sources.

At a press conference at BBC headquarters Friday, Lyons described the voicemail message left on the answering machine of actor Andrew Sachs as "so grossly offensive that there was no possible justification for its broadcast," and said that the Trust also found "serious failings in editorial judgment" at the highest level across a number of other programs.

Among them, a television interview between Ross and Gwyneth Paltrow in which the presenter told the actress he "would f--- her," which the Trust described as "overly sexual" and "gratuitous."

The Trust also said that BBC management should re-examine an incident involving Brand speaking about the Sachs call on the Radio 1 Chris Moyles show, which the BBC's own editorial controls process had cleared.

In the Oct. 18 broadcast of a prerecorded show, Ross and comedian Russell Brand bragged about Brand's sexual relationship with Sach's granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, in a series of messages left on Sachs' answering machine.

"The broadcast of these comments represents an abuse of the privilege given to the BBC to broadcast to its audiences," the BBC Trust's editorial standards committee said, adding that the calls had been "without informed consent" from either Sachs or Baillie.

Commentators said the report's revelations are even worse than had been expected.

"It looks like a cultural failure rather than a single, isolated incident," said media writer and BBC broadcaster Steve Hewlett, speaking on Sky News after the press conference.

"If you were most senior management of the BBC, you'd start to be a little worried about they way this whole thing was starting to look -- these are starting to look like systemic failures, they are accidents waiting to happen," he added.

A report from media regulator Ofcom on the matter is expected before the end of the year.
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