BBC suspends two top broadcasters for foul-mouthed comments

By Robin Millard, AFP

LONDON — The BBC suspended two top presenters Wednesday over foul-mouthed comments aired about a veteran actor and his granddaughter, in the latest row to rock the British broadcaster. Within hours of the BBC action one of the two broadcasters, Russell Brand, tendered his resignation, while the other, Jonathan Ross — the BBC’s highest-paid presenter — issued a fulsome apology for the “juvenile” comments. The row over the sexually explicit remarks on a radio show has escalated into a media and political storm here, eclipsing the global financial crisis, the U.S. election and conflict in Africa from front pages. The controversy centers on phone messages left by Ross and Brand for 78-year-old Andrew Sachs, famed for his role as bumbling Spanish waiter Manuel in the hit 1970s TV comedy series “Fawlty Towers.” Listeners heard a series of explicit exchanges including a claim by Ross that Brand had had sex with Sachs’s 23-year-old granddaughter.

The pair then discussed how Sachs might hang himself as a result, and how they could break into his house and perform a sex act on him by way of apology. The row is the latest in a string of embarassments for the BBC. In July, it was fined 400,000 pounds after a string of shows faked winners of their competition.