Conservative MP John Whittingdale – Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, has asked tough questions of the BBC in the last 24 hours. His intervention followed a prank message left on the answer machine of elderly actor Andrew Sachs. Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand broadcast their controversial voicemail on Saturday night on BBC Radio 2. Mr Brand suggested he had slept with Mr Sachs’ 23-year-old granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, an aspiring model.
John Whittingdale said:
"The trouble is, this is not the first occasion on which Jonathan Ross has crossed the line and has been pulled up by the BBC and told not to carry this kind of material, and it appears that has had little effect… [The BBC pays] a very substantial amount of public money for Jonathan Ross and a pretty large amount for Russell Brand too. I think they are both talented broadcasters but they have got to remember that when they are broadcasting on the BBC in particular, they are not able to use material they might use in a live show. The message needs to be rammed home. It does raise questions about their future with the corporation…
I think anybody who listens to Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand has a rough idea of what to expect but, in my view, this did go too far. To make that kind of comment to a much-loved, elderly character actor like Andrew Sachs was pretty offensive in the first place. To then broadcast it to two million people seems to me unacceptable."
Mr Whittingdale called for OfCom to investigate the matter.
The Mail leader-writers do not require an investigation. They’ve already decided: "Is there any reason why we should be expected to go on paying this vile man [Brand] – or the executives who judge his filth fit to broadcast?"
David Cameron has joined this controversy: "The BBC have got some very straight forward questions to answer. Why did they allow this programme to be broadcast? Who made the decision to broadcast it? How high up the editorial chain did it go? Who examined it? Why did they conclude it should be broadcast? The BBC needs to be transparent about all of those decisions and explain its decision-making process so everyone can see what more needs to be done." (Quoted in The Sun).