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Douglas quits, Ross suspended

BBC Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas has resigned from her position over the broadcast of the answerphone messages left for actor Andrew Sachs by presenters Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross

Brand has already resigned from his radio show, while Jonathan Ross is to be suspended without pay for 12 weeks.

Douglas – also controller of BBC 6 Music and director of popular music across the corporation – said that she resigned with "enormous regret" and said that it was her decision alone.

She was due to take over from outgoing Radio Academy chairman John Myers next year. It's unclear as to whether she will now assume this position.

BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, told BBC News: "Senior management heard about this on Sunday. First thing on Monday we issued an apology and began an investigation. I met with the BBC Trust today and we have introduced a number of measures as a result of the report provided to us. I took the decision on Wednesday morning to suspend the two presenters. Since then, Russell Brand has resigned from his programme at the BBC and we have taken the decision to suspend Jonathan Ross for 12 weeks, during which time he will not be paid."

Mr Thompson added: "Lesley Douglas has been one of our most successful, most trustworthy controllers for a number of years. Lesley was aware of the programme, but it is fair to say she had not heard the programme before transmission."

Jonathan Ross, who picked up the Gold Music Radio Personality award at this year's Sony Awards, will be off the air for 3 months as a result of his part in the controversy. The number of complaints about the Radio 2 broadcast on Saturday 18 October has risen from just two after the show went out to more 30,000, following media reports about the incident.

Mark Thompson also told BBC News: "I believe Jonathan overstepped the mark, it doesn't mean that in the future he can't continue to broadcast for the BBC but he, and everyone else, should take this as a final warning."

Russell Brand's Saturday night programme was produced by his own production company, Vanity Projects. Among the other measures put in place by the BBC Trust in response to the prank calls incident will be for Radio 2 to broadcast an on-air apology.

In a statement, the BBC Trust also apologised to Mr Sachs and his granddaughter: "The transmission of these comments via a BBC Radio programme represents an abuse of the privilege given to the BBC to broadcast to its audiences. On behalf of the BBC, the trust offers a full and unreserved apology to Andrew Sachs, Georgina Baillie and the rest of his family. The trust extends this apology to licence fee payers as a whole."

[b]The exchange of letters today between Douglas and BBC Director General Mark Thompson is shown below.[/b]

[i]Dear Mark

The last week has been a painful one for the BBC and particularly for BBC Radio 2.

It is with enormous regret that I have decided to resign as Controller of BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music and of Popular Music. This is my decision alone.

Over the 23 years of my career at the BBC I have enjoyed a deep love and respect for both the audience and the BBC. The events of the last two weeks happened on my watch. I believe it is right that I take responsibility for what has happened.

It is a matter of the greatest possible sadness to me that a programme on my network has been the cause of such a controversy. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my personal apology to Andrew Sachs and his family and to the audience for what has happened.

It has been a huge privilege to have been entrusted with the leadership of the UK's most popular radio station, which is so intensely loved by the audience. I have also had the tremendous pleasure of launching BBC 6 Music and more recently of leading popular music output across the BBC.

I know I leave BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music in the hands of a dedicated and passionate team of incredibly talented presenters and production staff. I am enormously proud of what we have achieved together.

Yours ever

Lesley Douglas

[i]Dear Lesley

Thank you for your letter.

It is with real sadness that I accept your decision to resign. There is no doubt that my sadness today will be shared both across the BBC and the wider music industry.

You have been an outstanding Head of Programmes and then Controller of Radio 2 over the past eight years. You have presided over a creative transformation of the Network, and have rightly been recognised by the industry for your massive contribution to UK radio.

Your decision to take responsibility for what has happened is an illustration of the integrity and commitment which has characterised your leadership at BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music

Over the past 23 years, you have been a devoted servant of the BBC, and your absence will be felt by your many colleagues and friends at the BBC. I am sure you will continue to make an outstanding contribution to radio and popular music in the UK.

Yours sincerely
Mark Thompson

Director-General [/i]

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