Alex Mahon, boss of U.K. public service broadcaster Channel 4, has called the allegations against comedian Russell Brand “horrendous” and has confirmed the network is investigating the comedian’s behaviour.
Brand has been accused of sexual assault and rape by four women. The allegations were made public last weekend in a joint investigation by The Times of London, The Sunday Times and Channel 4 documentary team “Dispatches.” Brand has strongly denied the claims.
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For many years the comedian was a familiar face on Channel 4, presenting “Big Brother” spin-off “Big Brother’s Big Mouth” among other fare. In 2019 he also appeared as a celebrity guest on “The Great British Bake-Off” where he shocked viewers by baking cookies shaped like his wife’s genitals.
“We meet in a week where yet again our industry is very much in the public spotlight,” Mahon said as she gave the opening remarks at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge on Wednesday morning, which Channel 4 is sponsoring and which Mahon is chairing. “And while I will go on in a minute to talk about the theme of the conference, I will start by addressing those news headlines.”
“The allegations made against Russell Brand are horrendous and as the CEO of Channel 4 — and as a woman in our industry — I found the behaviour described by ‘Dispatches’ and The Sunday Times and The Times articles disgusting and saddening. The allegations of course need to be followed up further and we and the BBC and Banijay are investigating.”
“And Channel 4 has invited anyone who knows about this behaviour to come to us and we’ve written to all our suppliers to say the same and we’ve set up a process for people to contact us anonymously if they need to. They’re not empty words or gestures from all of us, they’re part of what is meant by our duty of care. We will seek to find out who knew, who was told what and what was or wasn’t referred up.”
“But what is clear to me is that terrible behaviour towards women was historically tolerated in our industry. And in clips we’ve seen as well provide a rather shocking jolt when one realises what appeared on air not that long ago,” she also said of the many videos that have emerged of Brand’s behavior and comments on TV that have emerged in the aftermath of the allegations.
In the “Dispatches” documentary, many of those who worked with Brand during his time at Channel 4 and on other networks spoke of behavior that made them uncomfortable, including picking up young audience members. Clips were also shown of his stand-up and hosting gigs in which he made inappropriate comments and would make apparently unwanted physical overtures to guests.
Mahon’s speech on Wednesday also addressed the conference’s theme of “Is there too much to watch?” saying that with the plethora of content available to viewers, PSBs are sitting on a “generational timebomb.”
“We must urgently recognize that those of us who are U.K. PSBs are sitting on a generational timebomb,” Mahon told the audience, which included BBC boss Tim Davie, who is set to speak later on Wednesday.
Speaking about the changing ways in which viewers consume content, Mahon spoke of the importance of PSBs, saying they play “to that sense of connection to people’s own local, regional or national concerns.”
But she pointed out young people are no longer as connected to traditional U.K. PSBs, instead pivoting to streamers and short form social media.
“The brands for young viewers are on different services, they navigate differently,” Mahon said. “We don’t know yet what that will mean, but it is safe to say there has been much more profound change for them than their parents experienced.”
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