Jonathan Ross quits the BBC

5:37 AM PST 01/07/2010 by Mimi Turner, AP

Corporation's highest-paid star to leave after 13 years

LONDON -- In a move that robs it of its highest paid star, talk show host Jonathan Ross has sensationally quit the BBC after 13 years.

The host of BBC1's "Friday Night With Jonathan Ross" has proved one of the pubcaster's most controversial presenters in the recent years, both for his reputed £6 million ($9.6 million) yearly salary, and for his role in the Russell Brand obscene phone calls row that saw Ross suspended from BBC airwaves for three months without pay.

He also presents a Saturday morning chat show on Radio 2 and a movie review show for BBC1.

But he has also proved an enduring talent for the BBC, where his ability to bring in big audiences and big stars and strike a balance between populist appeal and the ability to deliver edgy performances will be tough for the BBC to replace.

In a statement Ross said he had quit the pubcaster for reasons that were "other than financial" and seemed to suggest that he would have accepted a far lower offer if the BBC had offered it. He is expected to explore opportunities in the U.S. and with other broadcasters here such as ITV and Channel 4.

"I signed my current contract with the BBC having turned down more lucrative offers from other channels because it was where I wanted to be and -- as I have said before -- would happily have stayed there for any fee they cared to offer, but there were other considerations."

"I would like to make it perfectly clear that no negotiations ever took place and that my decision is not financially motivated.

He will work on his current shows until the summer and then quit the BBC except for a few specials, and will continue to host the BAFTA Film awards.

In a statement, BBC director of vision Jana Bennett said the decision was made by Ross alone.

"Jonathan Ross has told the BBC that he's decided not to pursue the renewal of his contract with the BBC. It's been a difficult year for him and I understand why he feels it's the right thing to do."
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