VMA Host Russell Brand Suspended By BBC For Crude Prank Calls

The phone calls inspired more than 18,000 complaints, including one from the prime minister.

If you thought British comedian Russell Brand's opening monologue at this year's MTV Video Music Awards was (to put it mildly) provocative, then you should have caught his BBC Radio program a couple of weeks back.

According to The Associated Press, it was the October 18 broadcast of "The Russell Brand Show," which airs on state-funded radio, that forced the BBC to suspend Brand and his co-host, Jonathan Ross, indefinitely. During the show, Brand and Ross left a series of bawdy phone messages on Andrew Sachs' answering machine, in which Brand claimed to have slept with the 78-year-old actor's granddaughter, Georgina Baillie.

Both Brand and Ross were suspended Wednesday (October 29) after the calls incited denunciation in Parliament and an investigation by Britain's media regulator. The calls inspired more than 18,000 complaints — including one from Prime Minister Gordon Brown — and, although both have apologized to Sachs, who portrayed Spanish waiter Manuel in the 1970s sitcom "Fawlty Towers," BBC chief Mark Thompson moved to pull them off the air.

Thompson called the broadcast "completely unacceptable" and said, "BBC audiences accept that, in comedy, performers attempt to push the line of taste. However, this is not a marginal case. I have decided that it is not appropriate for either Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross to continue broadcasting on the BBC until I have seen the full report of the actions of all concerned."

Baillie, 23, who is a member of a dance troupe called the Satanic Sluts, told The Sun newspaper Wednesday that she had had a relationship with Brand and called for the BBC to fire both him and Ross. "Russell Brand has embarrassed me by making a private relationship very public in the cruelest way imaginable," she said.

Several U.K. politicians are calling for the dismissal of Ross and Brand. The Office of Communications, the independent regulator and competition authority for the communication industries in the U.K., is investigating the matter to see whether the radio hosts breached the broadcasting code, which sets standards for fairness and privacy.