Channel 4’s boss has said the allegations against Russell Brand show how “terrible behaviour” against women has been tolerated in the television industry.
Alex Mahon, the broadcaster’s chief executive, said one of the most shocking elements of the documentary was seeing “what appeared on air not that long ago”, when broadcasters were happy to show footage of Brand making misogynistic jokes about sex.
Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary included a clip from Brand’s 2006 standup tour, which was released on DVD, where he told a laughing audience he liked “blowjobs where mascara runs a little bit”.
The Sunday Times and Dispatches interviewed a woman who was 16 years old when she had a relationship with Brand, then 31. She described him stating his desire to make her mascara run during sex, while using BBC-funded taxis to transport her around London.
Individuals who worked with Brand during that era have told journalists they were advised to be careful around him, rather than confronting the comedian over his behaviour on set. Brand has insisted all his relationships were consensual.
Mahon told the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge conference the allegations were “disgusting and saddening” and she wanted to know whether complaints registered at the time were passed to senior management. “We will seek to find what was – or wasn’t – referred up.”
The BBC and Channel 4 have removed material featuring Brand from their websites, although he has largely retreated from mainstream media outlets in recent years. On Tuesday Brand lost access to one of his main sources of income when YouTube decided to stop him generating money from his channel.
Pedro Pina, YouTube’s boss in Europe, told the conference that Brand is “not able to make a living through YouTube” as a result of the decision, but he would still be able to post videos and host existing content. “We don’t tolerate harmful content inside the platform. Right now we don’t have harmful content by Russell Brand on YouTube. If we find out that there’s more reason to take more action, we will.”
The BBC’s director general, Tim Davie, also said the BBC would conduct a review of Brand’s time there as a radio presenter between 2006 and 2008, while saying power imbalances in the media remain an issue to this day. “I just think we can’t be complacent. This is not just an issue that is wholly historic.
“There has been deep issues with misogyny and abuse of power, we need to be utterly vigilant, unaccepting of it, and create a culture where there’s trust that bringing information forward is treated very seriously.”