BBC fined over lewd phone call scandal

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Apr 3, 2009 at 12:11 PM EST

Britain's media regulator fined the BBC 150,000 pounds (220,000 dollars, 165,000 euros) on Friday for lewd phone calls made by its highest-paid presenter Jonathan Ross to a veteran actor.

The broadcaster suspended Ross for 12 weeks without pay over the calls last November, in which he and comedian Russell Brand left messages on the answerphone of Andrew Sachs, a star of cult comedy series "Fawlty Towers."

The Ofcom regulator said the publicly-funded BBC had broadcast explicit, intimate and confidential information about Georgina Baillie, Sachs's granddaughter, in two radio programmes without their consent.

It said the scale of the fine reflected the "extraordinary" nature and seriousness of the BBC's failures and breaches of the Broadcasting Code.

"This not only unwarrantably and seriously infringed their privacy but was also gratuitously offensive, humiliating and demeaning," an Ofcom statement said.

A high-profile demonstrator during G20 protests in London which turned violent this week, Brand resigned over the scandal -- as did the controller of BBC Radio 2, Lesley Douglas.

Ross, who has a three-year contract with the BBC worth 18 million pounds (20 million euros, 26.5 million dollars), has returned to hosting a radio show and his late-night TV chat show.




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