The BBC has pledged to investigate whether Russell Brand used the broadcaster’s taxis to pick up a 16-year-old girl from school, as it removed all of the comedian’s shows from its catchup services.
Brand has been accused of using cars paid for by his then employers at the BBC to drive his young girlfriend around London.
The BBC director general, Tim Davie, told staff he had now launched a full investigation into Brand’s time working for the corporation between 2006 and 2008, when the comedian presented shows on 6 Music and Radio 2. The Sunday Times has reported claims that complaints were made about Brand’s behaviour in the studio during that period but nothing was done.
Davie told staff on Tuesday afternoon that he hoped to conclude the investigation within weeks. “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,” he said.
On Tuesday the BBC removed programmes featuring the comedian from its catchup services, following the lead of Channel 4 and Comedy Central. Brand has already seen his lucrative YouTube channel demonetised, meaning he can no longer make money from adverts shown alongside his videos.
Brand resigned on Tuesday as a director of two companies – Mayfair Film Partnership Ltd and One Arm Bandit Ltd – that he ran with his former agent John Noel.
In 2008 Brand was sacked by the BBC after leaving voicemails for the actor Andrew Sachs about sleeping with his granddaughter.
Davie told BBC staff on Tuesday that he was still disgusted by the voicemails. “When I listened back, frankly, to some of those broadcasts, I think that is just completely unacceptable,” he said. “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.”
A longstanding BBC executive, Davie was the corporation’s director of audio when Brand left the messages in 2008. As a result, he was in charge of investigating Brand the first time around, initially describing the comedian and his co-host Jonathan Ross as “brilliant entertainers” who had made “unacceptable and offensive” comments to Sachs.
The Brand investigation adds to the BBC’s long list of outstanding reviews relating to previous scandals. The national broadcaster is still waiting on reports about social media use by stars such as Gary Lineker, an inquiry into the behaviour of its former DJ Tim Westwood, and an investigation into the news presenter Huw Edwards.
During the pre-arranged session with BBC staff on Tuesday, Davie suggested high-profile individuals in the media industry had too much power. “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 said.
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