The BBC has refused to say whether it received historical complaints about Russell Brand as the broadcaster is expected to face scrutiny over allegations about the comedian’s alleged conduct.
Brand presented shows for BBC 6 Music and BBC Radio 2 from 2006 to 2008. He was forced to quit in a firestorm of controversy for leaving “gratuitously offensive” messages on the voicemail of Andrew Sachs, in which he hinted at sleeping with the Fawlty Towers actor’s granddaughter.
As part of an investigation into allegations that Brand raped and sexually assaulted four women, The Times and Sunday Times newspapers and Channel 4 reported that complaints were made about Brand’s behavior to Lesley Douglas, then controller of BBC Radio 2.
Deadline has contacted Brand’s publicist and attorney for comment. He preemptively refuted criminal allegations in a social media video, in which he said his relationships were “always consensual.” He said reports about his behavior were part of a “concerted agenda” by the “mainstream media” to silence him.
Deadline submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the BBC last year in which we asked the corporation if it had any records of complaints against Brand. The BBC declined to answer the questions, citing UK data protection laws.
It stood by this position on Saturday when asked for comment, despite Deadline pointing out that the BBC had disclosed historical complaints about the alleged misconduct of Tim Westwood, another former radio presenter.
Citing two sources, The Times and Sunday Times reported that a serious complaint was made in December 2007 after Brand urinated into a bottle “in full view of everyone” in the BBC Radio 2 studio and hurled objects “in fits of rage.” The incident made headlines in January 2008.
In a statement, the BBC said the investigation into the Sachs voicemail incident showed that it had taken action against Brand.
“Russell Brand left the BBC after a serious editorial breach in 2008 – as did the then controller of Radio 2. The circumstances of the breach were reviewed in detail at the time. We hope that demonstrates that the BBC takes issues seriously and is prepared to act,” the BBC said.
“Indeed, the BBC has, over successive years, evolved its approach to how it manages talent and how it deals with complaints or issues raised. We have clear expectations around conduct at work … We will always listen to people if they come forward with any concerns, on any issue related to any individual working at the BBC, past or present.”
Lawyers for Douglas told the Times newspapers: “Ms Douglas did not at any time encourage, enable and/or fail herself to take any adequate steps within her power with regard to the conduct of Russell Brand of which she was aware. She is presently unable to provide any further information which may be relevant to the matters raised in this article due to the obligations owed by her to her former employer.”
Banijay Asked To Investigate Brand
Separately, Channel 4 has asked Banijay to investigate historical allegations that Brand behaved inappropriately while presenting Big Brother spin-off shows in the UK.
Brand, who vehemently denies wrongdoing, has been accused of flashing his penis at a runner and pursuing female audience members for sex while working on EFourum and Big Brother’s Big Mouth, which were produced by Banijay-owned Endemol for Channel 4.
Two former crew members told the Times newspapers that they felt feel like they were working as a “pimp” for Brand during their time on EFourum. One runner, who went on to have a relationship with Brand, alleged that she was shocked when he flashed his penis at her and insinuated that she could give him oral sex during an encounter in his dressing room.
A researcher claimed that Brand’s pursuit of audience members was reported to production managers at Endemol, but their concerns were dismissed. Banijay said it could find no record of concerns being raised about Brand after recently reviewing files.
Banijay apologized for Endemol’s procedures at the time of the concerns, but said it now has “robust welfare procedures and policies in place,” including a whistleblowing line and dedicated HR contacts.
A spokesperson said: “While the legacy company, Endemol, did have a code of conduct, support policies and escalation procedures in place during the period in question (2004 / 2005) they were not as robust as our current processes. We are sorry these women did not feel supported and protected while working on these productions and in light of these serious allegations encourage to them to contact us in confidence.”
Channel 4 said: “Channel 4 is appalled to learn of these deeply troubling allegations including behaviour alleged to have taken place on programmes made for Channel 4 between 2004 and 2007.
“We are determined to understand the full nature of what went on. We have carried out extensive document searches and have found no evidence to suggest the alleged incidents were brought to the attention of Channel 4. We will continue to review this in light of any further information we receive, including the accounts of those affected individuals.
“We will be asking the production company who produced the programmes for Channel 4 to investigate these allegations and report their findings properly and satisfactorily to us.
“In the many years since the alleged incidents took place, there has obviously been extensive change in Channel 4’s management and commissioning teams. Today, Channel 4 has a zero-tolerance approach to unacceptable behaviour and has a robust Code of Conduct. We require all suppliers to have in place rigorous safeguarding policies and provide whistleblowing support, including Channel 4’s Speak Up facility. We are committed to ensuring our industry has safe, inclusive and professional working environments.”
Lawmaker Says Scrutiny Needed
Dame Caroline Dinenage, chair of UK Parliament’s influential Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said her group of MPs would ask questions about the BBC and Channel 4’s response to the Brand allegations.
She said: “The report makes very serious and disturbing allegations. Another tale of alleged exploitation of power in the TV industry. Once again behaviour described an ‘open secret’ from those in Russell Brand’s orbit.
“The Culture, Media and Sport Committee are keen to understand the response of the police to this body of evidence. We will be looking closely at the media, and especially our public service broadcasters, response to these allegations, and the issues this, yet again, raises about culture in the industry.”