In a startling turn of events, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has initiated an investigation into allegations that comedian Russell Brand used the broadcaster's resources, including company-paid taxis, to pick up a 16-year-old girl from school. The revelation comes as the BBC removed all of Russell Brand's shows from its catch-up services.
Russell Brand, who was 31 years old at the time, stands accused of utilizing cars funded by the BBC, his then-employer, to chauffeur his young girlfriend around London. The allegations date back to Brand's tenure at the BBC between 2006 and 2008 when he hosted shows on 6 Music and Radio 2.
The BBC's Director General, Tim Davie, made a formal announcement to staff, confirming the launch of a comprehensive investigation into Russell Brand's activities during his time at the corporation. The investigation aims to examine any complaints made regarding Brand's conduct during that period, evaluate what was known at the time, and assess any actions taken in response. Furthermore, the review will scrutinize the usage of BBC vehicles during the same timeframe.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Tim Davie expressed his intention to conclude the investigation within a matter of weeks, stating, "We'll look at any complaints made about Russell Brand's conduct during his time, what was known at the time, what was done... The review will also look at the position regarding any cars used by the BBC at that time."
In response to these allegations, the BBC has swiftly removed all programs featuring Russell Brand from its catch-up services. This move follows similar actions taken by Channel 4 and Comedy Central. Additionally, Russell Brand's lucrative YouTube channel has been demonetized, preventing him from earning revenue from advertisements displayed alongside his videos.
On the same day, Russell Brand resigned as a director of two companies, Mayfair Film Partnership Ltd and One Arm Bandit Ltd, which he co-managed with his former agent, John Noel.
Russell Brand's association with the BBC was marked by controversy when he was terminated from his position in 2008 after leaving inappropriate voicemails for actor Andrew Sachs concerning Sachs' granddaughter.
Reflecting on the past, Tim Davie expressed his ongoing dismay over the voicemails, saying, "When I listened back, frankly, to some of those broadcasts, I think that is just completely unacceptable. What led to that being on air? I just look at that stuff, and I say there is no way I will listen to that, there's no way I accept it. We have to be clear about that together, that we will not accept that."
Tim Davie, a longstanding BBC executive, was the Director of Audio at the corporation when the incident involving Russell Brand and Andrew Sachs occurred. He was initially responsible for investigating Brand's actions and described the comedian and his co-host, Jonathan Ross, as "brilliant entertainers" who had made "unacceptable and offensive" comments to Sachs.
The investigation into Russell Brand adds to the BBC's list of ongoing reviews related to previous scandals involving the broadcaster. The BBC is still awaiting reports concerning social media use by prominent figures like Gary Lineker, an inquiry into the behavior of former DJ Tim Westwood, and an investigation into news presenter Huw Edwards.
During a pre-arranged session with BBC staff on Tuesday, Tim Davie hinted at concerns about a power imbalance in the media industry, stating, "You look back, and this industry has definitely faced significant issues with regard to a deep power imbalance in certain places, between so-called talent, presenters, and others working on shows, there's no doubt about that."