Club undeterred by Ross blooper

The Variety Club is standing by Jonathan Ross despite a disparaging reference he made about disabled children "on a Variety bus" during his Radio 2 morning show.

"We're grateful for Jonathan Ross' contribution to The Variety Club, he's an amazing man and that's all we have to say on the matter," said a Club spokeswoman.

The Broadcasting Standards Commission last week upheld a complaint about Ross' comments, and ruled that the reference to Variety Club children as a way of disparaging a colleague had exceeded the acceptable boundaries for broadcast transmission.

Ross told a colleague on air that his hand injury made him look like "a slightly challenged youth, like you would get on a Variety Bus".

The BBC defended Ross' remark, stating that there had been no cruel or malicious intent and that the comments had not been directed at disabled children.

Ross was named Showbusiness Personality of the Year 2002 at the latest Variety Club Showbusiness Awards, which were held in February.

Justin McKeon, associate director of public relations and branding firm Sinclair Mason, said that Ross' comments could seriously undermine efforts to remove the stigma of disability.

"Celebrities and the media have the power to do a lot of good for charities, but off-colour remarks can have a huge effect due to the massive audience figures and cultural impact of popular TV and radio shows," he said.

"Jonathan Ross is a controversial figure and millions of people listen to his show, and things he says are likely to be repeated by his listeners," McKeon added. "Comments like this can help endorse stereotypes and even create new insults by linking the charity's name to a clever disparaging remark intended to undermine someone."

The Broadcasting Standards Commission's ruling was the eighth censure it has handed to the TV and radio presenter. In the past, Ross has received listener complaints following remarks about the facial disfigurement of stroke victims, the rape drug Rohypnol and hospice patients.

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