Director general orders review of Russell Brand's BBC career in light of abuse claims

TV and social media organisations take action following allegations of sexual assault have been made against Russell Brand, as ITV News' Neil Connery reports

The BBC's director general Tim Davie has announced a review of Russell Brand's career at the corporation in light of several abuse and sexual assault allegations made against the comedian.

Peter Johnston has been appointed to lead the review into Brand’s time at the broadcaster, from 2006 to 2008, according to BBC News.

It is said to look at "at any complaints against Brand, what was known, and what was done".

One of the women, under the pseudonym Alice, claims that Brand used the BBC’s car service to pick her up from school when she was 16 so she could visit his home. Mr Davie said the review will look at the use of "any cars used by the BBC at that time" in response.

The broadcaster hopes to release an interim update on the review "within weeks".

Brand pictured after resigning from his BBC Radio 2 show in 2008, when he and Jonathan Ross made lewd calls on air. Credit: PA

During a long-arranged session with BBC staff, Mr Davie said: "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."

He added that BBC’s processes have changed, including on its code of conduct, values and the corporation has a non-negotiable anti-bullying and harassment policy, saying: "We should all be looking after each other, we should be very vigilant, we should keep improving our processes.

"Lastly, I’d say I do think we’re in a different place, over 15 years.

"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."

BBC director-general Tim Davie Credit: PA

Brand left BBC Radio 2 in 2008 after he and guest Jonathan Ross made headlines for leaving a “lewd” voicemail for Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs about his granddaughter, with whom Brand was in a relationship.

It comes as both the BBC and YouTube revealed they have taken action on content from Brand hosted on their platforms.

YouTube has suspended the monetisation of Brand’s channel, while the BBC removed some of his content from its iPlayer and Sounds app saying it "now falls below public expectations".

Podcast company Acast also turned off advertisements on Brand’s Under The Skin podcast immediately following news, they have said.

The TV presenter has been accused of rape, sexual assault, and emotional abuse by four women who remain anonymous.

The alleged incidents, according to an investigation by The Sunday Times, The Times and Channel 4 Dispatches, were reported to have happened between 2006 and 2013.

The Metropolitan Police has now said it has received a further complaint of sexual assault, alleged to have taken place in Soho, central London, in 2003.

Russell Brand leaves the Troubabour Wembley Park theatre in north-west London after performing a comedy set. Credit: PA

Brand denies allegations of rape and sexual assault and said his relationships had always been consensual.

On Tuesday, YouTube announced Brand would no longer be able to make money from his YouTube videos, citing violations of the company's "Creator Responsibility policy".

In a statement, the video platform said: “We have suspended monetisation on Russell Brand’s channel for violating our Creator Responsibility policy. If a creator’s off-platform behaviour harms our users, employees or ecosystem, we take action to protect the community.”

The decision applies to all channels that may be owned or operated by the 48-year-old, it added. YouTube creators make money from adverts, subscriptions and merchandise.

The BBC has also removed some content featuring Brand from its iPlayer and Sounds apps, a BBC spokesman said: “The BBC does not ban or remove content when it is a matter of public record, unless we have justification for doing so.

“There is limited content featuring Russell Brand on iPlayer and Sounds. We’ve reviewed that content and made a considered decision to remove some of it, having assessed that it now falls below public expectations.”

Brand will no longer be able to make money from his YouTube channel following the suspension. Credit: YouTube

It was also announced on Tuesday that Dame Caroline Dinenage, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, has written to the BBC, Channel 4, GBNews and TikTok following the widespread allegations.

The letter to TikTok is to clarify if Brand is still able to monetise his posts, and the letters to BBC and Channel 4 ask for further details on the ongoing investigations into his behaviour.

To GB News, Dame Caroline has requested details about "discussions with the broadcasters' presenters on their responsibilities relating to impartiality and professionalism when fronting news coverage, and any further decision-making."

She said: "The allegations have been widely described by reporters in the press and on social media as an 'open secret' and quite often these secrets are shared between friends and colleagues just to keep each other safe.

"But my concern is when people in power are aware of rumours or stories yet don’t act, then a culture is allowed to permeate."

It comes as the remaining shows on Brand’s Bipolarisation tour were postponed.

A performance scheduled for Tuesday at the Theatre Royal Windsor in Berkshire was postponed, with the show’s promoters saying in a statement shared by the theatre: “We are postponing these few remaining addiction charity fundraiser shows, we don’t like doing it – but we know you’ll understand.”

Performances had been scheduled for two more venues this month – The Pavilions in Plymouth on Friday and The Civic At The Halls in Wolverhampton next Thursday.

Brand usually posts a new show on the video platform Rumble on weekdays at 5pm, but there was no new episode on Monday, with his most recent appearance a short one on Friday when he denied the allegations against him that were then published the following day.

The Met's update comes after more women were reported to have come forward with allegations about their treatment by the comedian, according to The Times. The newspaper says it was approached after publishing the claims by four women on Saturday.

Several other women have contacted the newspaper since Saturday, The Times reported, with claims about the comedian's behaviour since the early 2000s.

The new claims have not been investigated but would be "rigorously checked," the paper said, while Downing Street described the original allegations as "very serious and concerning".

One of the women who has alleged being sexually assaulted by the star spoke to Emma Barnett of BBC's Woman's Hour on Monday under the pseudonym Alice.

She claimed a BBC car took her from school to Brand's house when she was 16 and he was 30. She said the relationship left her feeling "cheap and dirtied".

She added that Brand's denial of the accusations was "insulting".

"It is laughable that he would even imply that it's a mainstream media conspiracy. He's not outside of mainstream media," she also said, before explaining she would like answers on why more was not done by the BBC at the time to intervene.

"He had a very well-known record of doing things that were inappropriate on the air, he had inappropriate conversations," she told Barnett.

Brand has denied the allegations, saying all sexual contact had been "consensual," in a video posted to his social media. He criticised the claims as "litany of extremely egregious and aggressive attacks".

He said he believes the reported allegations are part of a "coordinated attack" by the mainstream media and said he is going to look into this matter because it is "very, very serious".

His father, 80-year-old Ron Brand, wrote a post on Facebook on Monday defending his son, accusing the media of driving "The Russell Brand Vendetta".

He said: "Is this seriously the most important thing happening in this world? Immigrants? Cost of living? 10s of thousands killed in Ukraine? Who is prioritising at BBC News. Who is really driving this vendetta?"

"With many struggling to pay bills. The unproven accusations of 15 years ago take lead on BBC News?"

What have Russell Brand's former employers said?

In a statement, a BBC spokesman said: “The documentary and associated reports contained serious allegations, spanning a number of years.

"Russell Brand worked on BBC radio programmes between 2006 and 2008 and we are urgently looking into the issues raised.”

Channel 4 has launched an investigation into his time at the channel after he was accused of pursuing audience members for sex while presenting the broadcaster’s Big Brother spin-off shows EFourum and Big Brother’s Big Mouth.

Commenting on their own internal investigation, Channel 4 said: "(We are) 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."

The boss of the broadcaster said they have “carried out extensive document searches and thus far have found no evidence to suggest the alleged incidents” about Russell Brand were reported to management.

"We will continue to review this in light of any further information we receive, including the accounts of those affected individuals.

"We have asked the production company who produced the programmes for Channel 4 to investigate these allegations and report their findings properly and satisfactorily to us."

Production company Banijay launched an "urgent" internal investigation into allegations of serious misconduct against Brand while he was presenting shows in the mid-2000s.

A researcher claimed concerns about Brand's behaviour were reported to production managers at Endemol, the company commissioned by Channel 4 to produce the programmes in 2004 and 2005, but were dismissed.

A statement from Banijay UK, which bought Endemol in 2020, said: "In light of the very serious allegations raised by Dispatches and The Times/Sunday Times investigation relating to the alleged serious misconduct of Russell Brand while presenting shows produced by Endemol in 2004 and 2005, Banijay UK has launched an urgent internal investigation and will co-operate with any requests for information from broadcast partners and external agencies.

"We also encourage anybody who feels that they were affected by Brand's behaviour while working on these productions to contact us in confidence."

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