Jonathan Ross quits the BBC

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Jonathan Ross has announced today (Thursday) that he is leaving the BBC.

The star, who got into hot water this year over a gay adoption joke and obscene prank calls to actor Andrew Sachs, said his reasons for leaving were not financially motivated.

He has worked for the corporation for 13 years and is one of the highest-paid stars on an estimate £6 million a year.

But he was expected to take a substantial pay cut in line with other stars such as Graham Norton when his contract ends in July.

Ross said in a statement: “Although I have had a wonderful time working for the BBC, and am very proud of the shows I have made while there, over the last two weeks I have decided not to re-negotiate when my current contract comes to an end.

“While there I have worked with some of the nicest and most talented people in the industry and had the opportunity to interview some of the biggest stars in the world, and am grateful to the BBC for such a marvellous experience.

“I would like to make it perfectly clear that no negotiations ever took place and that my decision is not financially motivated.

“I signed my current contract with the BBC having turned down more lucrative offers from other channels because it was where I wanted to be and – as I have said before – would happily have stayed there for any fee they cared to offer, but there were other considerations.

“I love making my Friday night talk show, my Saturday morning radio show and the Film programme, and will miss them all.

“I look forward to continuing work on these shows until the summer, and I will continue hosting the Bafta Film Awards, Comic Relief and other BBC specials.

“Working at the BBC has been a tremendous privilege, and I would like to thank everyone who has watched and listened so loyally over the last 13 years.”

Jana Bennett, the director of BBC Vision, said Ross had had “a difficult year”.

He was suspended from the BBC for three months over the ‘Sachsgate’ affair. More than 40,000 people complained after he and Russell Brand left lewd messages on the veteran actor’s answerphone.

Ross provoked more anger of the size of his salary after joking at the British Comedy Awards in 2007 that he was “worth 1,000 BBC journalists”. The comments came at a time when the BBC was cutting thousands of jobs.

Bennett said: “Jonathan is an extremely talented broadcaster and his programmes for BBC TV and Radio have been a great success.

“However, it’s been a difficult year for him and I understand why he feels it’s the right thing to do.

Ross will continue to present Friday Night, Film 2010 and his Radio 2 show.

Bennett added that he would also continue to present the BAFTA awards and Comic Relief.

There has been speculated he may seek work in the US.

At 9.30am, before the news broke, Ross wrote on his Twitter account: “My day is turning out to be far more interesting then I had anticipated ! See you later – have a good one.”

In May, revealed that broadcasting watchdog Ofcom had received 61 complaints over a joke Ross made about gay children on his Radio 2 show.

While discussing a number of teen singer Hannah Montana-themed prizes, the presenter said: “If your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption before he brings his… erm… partner home.” reader Karen Mills, who listened to the show, said: “How can these people earn such huge sums of public money to come out with this discriminatory rubbish? What would be the message to a young gay man listening to this? Worse still, how might such comments reinforce and support homophobic bullying in the playground?

BBC executives subsequently decided to pre-record his show but denied the decision was due to the complaints.