Ross and Brand cost BBC six figure fine

BBC fined £150,000 over Sachsgate

BBC fined £150,000 over Sachsgate

By staff

BBC handed six-figure fine over Brand and Ross’ offensive voicemails.

The BBC has been handed a six-figure fine over the offensive voicemails left by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross for veteran actor Andrew Sachs.

The incident, abbreviated by many media outlets as ‘Sachsgate’, saw the presenters leave a series of lewd telephone messages for the Fawlty Towers star in which the pair joked about Brand having slept with Sachs’ granddaughter.

More than 40,000 people complained over the broadcast on Brand’s Radio 2 show, which saw Brand and Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas resign and Ross suspended for three months.

And media watchdog Ofcom has now fined the BBC £150,000 due to the “the extraordinary nature and seriousness of the BBC’s failures” over the incident and the “resulting breaches” of the broadcasting code.

Liberal Democrat media spokesman Don Foster said: “Serious failings led to a highly offensive and inappropriate phone call being broadcast. Ofcom are right to punish the corporation for those mistakes.

“The BBC must now give assurances that these systems will be tightened up.”

The Ofcom ruling includes a £80,000 fine for breaches of the privacy of Sachs and his granddaughter Georgina Bailie, a £70,000 penalty for broadcasting harmful and offensive material and a request that the BBC broadcast a statement of the Ofcom findings.

An Ofcom report on the incidents said the breaches of the code “constitute a significant failure by a long-established public service broadcaster to observe generally accepted standards relating to harm and offence and unwarranted infringements of privacy”.

Shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the fine did not fairly represent the damage done by the pair.

“It is clear from this damning report that the BBC’s safeguards were riddled with holes.

“The public needs to know that this is never going to happen again. The size of the fine may be relatively trivial but the breach of trust for licence fee payers was huge.”