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Ian Burrell

Ian Burrell edits the Media Weekly pages of The Independent.

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Jonathan Ross and the BBC - how it went sour

Posted by Ian Burrell
  • Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 11:05 am

So the BBC is to be free of Jonathan Ross. The corporation's best-paid presenter, on a salary package of £18m over three years, announced this morning that he would be quitting the organisation after 13 years service.

In a statement, he said: "Although I have had a wonderful time working for the BBC, and am very proud of the shows I have made while there, over the last two weeks I have decided not to re-negotiate when my current contract comes to an end."

For many at the BBC that will come as a great relief. Ross has become a lightning conductor for the BBC's critics, a highly-visible symbol of the corporation's perceived failings.

His pay package has come to represent the image of a bloated, publicly-funded organisation, at a time when the rest of the media industry, indeed the rest of the British economy is struggling. His humour - including the outrageous phone bullying of actor Andrew Sachs when Ross was a guest on Russell Brand's BBC radio show - has been highlighted as an indication of falling standards at the corporation. The broadcasting environment that has emerged after the backlash to that particular episode is markedly different. It has stifled the creative output of the BBC to a point where some bonafide comedians now claim that their working conditions are impossible.

Ross, though he rarely gives interviews himself, constantly uses the microblogging site Twitter, scaring the life out of BBC managers with comments such as the recent description of some BBC programmes as "shite".

His vast Twitter following, his widely-admired show on Radio 2 and his position as the BBC's premier chat show host are all evidence of his skill as a broadcaster and his popularity.

But in recent weeks, the relationship between Ross and the BBC has become increasingly strained as the corporation attempts to renegotiate expensive contracts with its top talent in the face of criticism that its excessive salaries are distorting the market and wasting public money. Rumours began circulating in the industry that Ross was being asked to take a 50% pay cut, although I understand a deal was never actually put on the table.

Since the "Sachsgate" episode the BBC has faced demands for Ross to be sacked, with right-wing commentators including the Daily Mail and the former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore being especially vociferous. BBC senior managers, still widely criticised for being cowed in the wake of the Hutton affair, have been keen to stand up to such pressure.

But now Ross has made the decision for them, realising that whatever new deal he might have struck would have antagonised the likes of the Mail. Some senior BBC executives accepted that logic, I am told.

In his statement, Ross said: "I would like to make it perfectly clear that no negotiations ever took place and that my decision is not financially motivated. I signed my current contract with the BBC having turned down more lucrative offers from other channels because it was where I wanted to be and - as I have said before - would happily have stayed there for any fee they cared to offer, but there were other considerations."

The presenter will still have a relationship with the BBC, working on one-off projects such as the BAFTA Film Awards and Comic Relief.
 
But we can assume that Ross, 49, will now be speaking to commercial broadcasters, though none is likely in the current climate to be in a position to give him the "more lucrative offers" that he says were once dangled before him.
 


Comments

wossy
mikeknoth wrote:
Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 01:02 pm (UTC)
Iknow nobody who could watch or listen to him for more than 5 minutes yet the bbc kept on telling us we liked him arguably his show was successful because of his guests but as ever tv companies over do things and over expose what they perceive to be popular the same can be said of Anne Robinson on a similarly ludicrous contract over exposed to get some sort of value for money weakest link is well past it's sell by date perhaps she can go with wossy and some new thinking can at last develope the bbc is not the only broadcaster who does to deathprogrammes and people perceived as popular the all do the didderence is we pay for the bbc through a licence not indirectly through the cost of goods,part of which pays for advertisements on the whole Isee bbc as by and large the better quality and am in favour of a licence rather than product placement prejudicing editorial independence I only wish their current political editor could be as neutral as his predecessor Andre Marr then A NDREW Marr was not previous chairman of the oxford university conservative association or the young conservatives Robinson chaired both and his clear bias is not inkeeping with the independence of the bbcwho's licence payers cover the whole political spectrum!
Re: wossy
gobysa wrote:
Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 03:30 pm (UTC)
What was that?

I'm out of breath reading that one!

Doesn't mikeknoth know that you are allowed to use punctuation when posting?
Re: wossy
mikeknoth wrote:
Friday, 8 January 2010 at 02:31 pm (UTC)
I know nobody who could watch or listen to him for more than 5 minutes, yet the bbc kept on telling us we liked him.
Aarguably his show was successful because of his guests but as ever, tv companies over do things and over expose what they perceive to be popular.For instance,the same can be said of Anne Robinson on a similarly ludicrous contract over exposed ,to get some sort of value for money.
The weakest link is well past it's sell by date perhaps she can go with wossy and some new thinking can at last develop the bbc is not the only broadcaster who does to death programmes and people perceived as popular. they all do the same the difference is we pay for the bbc through a licence not indirectly through the cost of goods,part of which pays for advertisements.
On the whole Isee bbc as by and large the better quality and am in favour of a licence rather than product placement prejudicing editorial independence!
I only wish the bbc's current political editor could be as neutral as his predecessor Andrew Marr then Andrew Marr was not previouslyChairman of the oxford university conservative association or the young conservativesNick Robinson chaired both and his clear bias is not inkeeping with the independence of the bbc,who's licence payers cover the whole political spectrum!
Re: wossy
mikeknoth wrote:
Friday, 8 January 2010 at 02:54 pm (UTC)
brain injuries sometimes cause spacial and other difficulties which may at timeslead topunctuation difficulties and ranmbles!
Onan the barbarian.
ron_broxted wrote:
Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 03:56 pm (UTC)
Ross equated with the LCD of mass media. Entertain the proles with dreck. The backlash over l'affair Sachs bit the Beeb in the bum, it was not just I who refused to pay the licence fee.
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