I’VE never quite known what to make of the telephone numbers which are paid to footballers in weekly wages.

But there is a very open market. Some footballers are extraordinarily talented. Other clubs compete for their skills.

The market finds a price. The environment is a harsh one.

If the performance is not there, the club suffers, and the player’s market value drops.

But there’s not such an active, open market for the talents of television presenters.

We have to rely on the judgement on our behalf of those who write the cheques.

How a price is settled is quite beyond my comprehension.

But what I do recall is my own incomprehension that a person called Jonathan Ross was given a contract worth £1 million to present a series of light entertainment programmes.

Taste in television programmes varies. But have I been alone in being underwhelmed by this man’s skills?

At least in the future I may be spared even this; for the question which now must arise is whether Mr Ross, and his colleague, “presenter” Russell Brand, should be paid a penny by the rest of us.

When I first read about Mr Ross and Mr Brand’s behaviour on a Radio 2 programme I thought perhaps that the newspapers had exaggerated what had happened.

But in many ways it’s worse than I imagined.

It would not have been funny were it a thoughtless prank by some teenagers. But Ross and Brand are not teenagers.

They are grown-ups, who in return for much more money than most people earn in a lifetime are required to conform to BBC standards.

And this was not thoughtless – but carefully thought through.

The item was pre-recorded. Brand and Ross evidently considered whether it should be broadcast.

So, one assumes, did their producer, and whoever they report to.

And they all then lost any sense of respect for Mr Sachs and the paying public, any sense of decency, and decided that the item would be broadcast.

Three big issues about arise here.

The first is the obvious one. The BBC has clear standards of decency.

This broadcast has to be in clear breach of them, if words have any meaning.

Second, there’s the way the BBC has dealt with the story. They have given it a good deal of coverage.

But when others not connected with the BBC are in the centre of a media fire storm like this, the BBC will be relentless in pursuit.

They’ll send news teams to homes, and all the rest.

I’ve not spotted this happening with the senior people from the BBC who ultimately are responsible for this appalling lapse in standards.

Finally, there’s this. If the presenters concerned had been working for a local radio station – BBC Radio Lancashire, for example – and they’d done this, does anyone seriously believe that they’d still be in post?

Of course not. They’d have been given their P45 before you could say “Jack Robinson”.

And it’s difficult not to feel that that’s exactly what should happen to these two so-called “stars”.

Russell Brand has now resigned, and quite right too. But is this the end of the story?