18 Oct: Calling Andrew Sachs

When Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross failed to reach their celebrity guest, 78 year-old ‘Fawlty Towers’ star Andrew Sachs, they instead left him a series of answerphone messages, joking about sexual encounters with Sachs’s granddaughter, Georgina Baillie. The segment aired on Brand’s Radio 2 show on 18th October, 2008, and became the third most-complained about programme in recent BBC history.

The presenters were suspended, the station controller resigned, and the BBC was fined £150,000. The event, which became known as ‘Sachsgate’, kick-started an era of ‘compliance’ at Britain’s national broadcaster, and was an early example of tabloid-generated ‘cancel culture’.

In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca ask whether the presenters would still be in their old jobs, were it not for the Mail On Sunday; discover a parallel between one of Sachs’ greatest comic moments and the voicemails that brought him back to national attention; and speculate whether ‘Sachsgate’ lead to the boom in comedy podcasts…

Further Reading:

• ‘Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross Abuse Andrew Sachs via Phone’ (BBC, 2008): 

• ‘Sachsgate: The obscene prank calls from Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross that ‘haunted’ Andrew Sachs before his death’ (Daily Mirror, 2016): https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/sachsgate-obscene-prank-calls-russell-9376380

• ‘BBC apologises over Brand prank’ (BBC, 2008): http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7692911.stm