Tired of his critics, Ross says goodbye to the BBC (and a £6m-a-year salary)

Corporation left with a hole in its schedules as outspoken broadcaster leaves without another job to go to

After 13 years with the BBC – and after 14 months of being an Aunt Sally figure for critics of an organisation that hankers to be regarded as dear old Auntie – Jonathan Ross has suddenly quit the Corporation.

The presenter's decision not to renew his contract, which runs out in six months' time, took the broadcasting industry by surprise yesterday. Many senior BBC executives will have received the news with relief, given that Ross, with a fruity vocabulary and a contract that pays £18m over three years, had become an obvious target for those who see the organisation as profligate and characterised by falling editorial standards.

The presenter, who considered his position over the past fortnight, is thought to have tired of the attacks that his broadcasting style attracted, particularly from right-wing commentators. The BBC has shared that criticism and senior executives accepted Ross's decision. He is also understood to have wanted new challenges in his career.

Alan Yentob, the BBC's creative director, took the phone call. "He has taken the initiative," said Yentob. "I want him to feel rehabilitated himself. Everyone here thinks he's a considerable talent and it's not the end of Jonathan Ross's career by a long chalk. But it's the end of an era and it has been a difficult year. Maybe that break will allow him to come back with confidence and not feel that he's under the microscope all the time."

Ross, in spite and because of the controversy he attracts, represents a great opportunity for the BBC's commercial rivals, and his departure from the Corporation's schedules is a blow both to its flagship channel BBC One and to Radio 2, its most listened-to network.

His decision comes at a time when BBC One, hamstrung by criticism that the Corporation is overly competitive, has been hard-pressed to match the weekend audiences of ITV1, where Simon Cowell shows such as The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent have revitalised the commercial channel. Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, worked with Ross at the BBC and is an admirer of his presenting abilities.

ITV said last night that it had no intention of offering Ross an exclusive contract, but hinted that there could be other opportunities for him. "If the right show came along and he was right for it then certainly we would look at it," said a spokesman, noting that Ross already hosts ITV's coverage of the British Comedy Awards.

Yet Ross, 49, is not believed to have had an alternative offer on the table when he issued his statement yesterday. "Over the last two weeks I have decided not to renegotiate when my current contract comes to an end. I would like to make it perfectly clear that no negotiations ever took place and that my decision is not financially motivated," he said. "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."

A possible move to ITV might be hampered by the fact that the broadcaster has commissioned Paul O'Grady to present a Friday night chat show designed to be an early evening competitor to Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, which has run for eight years and is in its 17th series. This may provide an opening for Channel 4, the network on which Ross made his presenting debut as host of The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross in 1987. Industry sources said last night that Channel 4 had already contacted Ross's agent Addison Cresswell. A spokesman for the channel admitted that it was "very keen" on Ross, who recently appeared on its show The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. "He's a great broadcaster. We definitely might be interested, the question is what he would do."

Ross's departure is also a disappointment for Radio 2, coming soon after the retirement of breakfast show presenter Terry Wogan and days ahead of the debut of his replacement, Chris Evans.

Sources close to Ross stressed that he had not quit over money. Although a single meeting had taken place before Christmas to discuss his contract, no new deal had been put forward.

Ross's departure from the BBC will be claimed as a victory by the Daily Mail, which has campaigned for him to be sacked since he and the former Radio 2 presenter Russell Brand recorded obscene messages on the telephone answering machine of the actor Andrew Sachs in October 2008.

It is said that Ross, who has based his style partly on that of David Letterman, is admired by American networks, which have in recent years made stars of a string of British presenters including Cowell, Piers Morgan and Anne Robinson. But although Ross created difficulties for the BBC, his name will be so attractive to the Corporation's rivals that his future will surely remain in Britain.

After Jonathan... possible successors

Chat Show: Graham Norton

Recently re-signed with the BBC, taking a £500,000 pay cut but still earning £4m over two years, Norton, like Ross, cut his chat show teeth at Channel 4. Currently hosting a comedy talk show on BBC Two, it would be the simplest and best value option for the BBC to give him Ross's slot on the flagship channel.

Film Show: Mark Kermode

Widely respected film critic and co-presenter of BBC Two's The Culture Show, he frequently appears on the BBC's news channel and reviews movies for Radio 5 Live.

Radio Show: Mark Lamarr

Already a fixture on Radio 2, and a former host of Never Mind The Buzzcocks, he doesn't have the same high profile as Ross, but is less prone to gaffes.

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Digital Marketing Assistant

£17 - 27k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Digital Marketing Assistant to join ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering