Robert Kilroy-Silk agreed last night to resign as presenter of his long-running discussion show after he enraged BBC executives by describing Arabs as "suicide bombers, limb amputators and woman-repressers".
The former MP cut a deal with the BBC by which his programme will return to the screen in "a few weeks" and will continue to be produced by his company, Kilroy Television, but using guest presenters. The arrangement, announced in a "joint statement", followed a meeting yesterday at Broadcasting House to discuss the presenter's future.
Sources suggested BBC executives had been determined to force Mr Kilroy-Silk to stand down but were concerned at possible legal action from the presenter and the danger that the 65 people he employs could be made redundant.
The statement said Kilroy Television would continue "working with the BBC on an ongoing basis as one of its principal suppliers in the production of the programme", even after the current series. In his contribution to the statement, Mr Kilroy-Silk said: "I believe this is the right moment to leave the programme and concentrate my energies in other directions." He said he would "continue to lead" the production company.
More contrite than he had been in interviews given after the row broke out, he acknowledged that his comments in a column for the Sunday Express had embarrassed the BBC. He said: "I have been overwhelmed by the support from the general public, and I continue to believe that it is my right to express my views, however uncomfortable they may be. However, I recognise the difficulties this has caused the BBC, and I believe my decision is the right way to resolve the situation."
The high level of public support for Mr Kilroy-Silk's position had unsettled the BBC and Jana Bennett, director of television, underlined that the corporation's action was not "about freedom of speech".
Ms Bennett said: "As presenter of Kilroy, no subject has been taboo, and he has ensured that BBC daytime viewers were better informed on almost every subject that affected their daily lives." She said the BBC wished to work with Mr Kilroy-Silk "in other non-screen roles" but not as a current affairs presenter. "He remains a substantial force in the media industry," she said.Reuse content