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Tuesday, June 9, 1998 Published at 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK


Barry Norman defects to Sky

Out the door: Film '98 will be Barry Norman's last BBC series

Britain's best-known film critic, Barry Norman, has announced he is leaving the BBC after 26 years to work for Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB.

Norman will leave BBC screens when the current series of Film 98 ends later this month, and will join the satellite broadcaster in September.

The move will shock film-goers, who have come to respect Norman's assessments of the latest releases.

New faces sought

Delighted Sky chiefs said they had signed "the face and the voice of film in Britain". The BBC, however, said it would seek a fresh young face to present its film coverage.

Norman, 64, said: "I will look back on my time at the BBC with huge affection, but the opportunities offered by Sky proved too attractive to turn down.

"I'm as enthusiastic as they are about the idea of channels dedicated to the movies and everything that's going on in the movie industry."

He is to present Sky Movies Exclusives, a series of British premieres of films which will not previously have been shown in the cinema.

Sky also recently announced it was to start original film production.

"Highest esteem"

Elisabeth Murdoch, Sky's general manager of broadcasting, said Norman was "held in the highest esteem both within the industry and by film fans everywhere".

It is reported that Norman had already agreed with BBC chiefs that Film '99 was to be the last series of the programme - which would have averted any uncertainty about what it would have been called in the year 2000.

Enormous contribution

Peter Salmon, the controller of BBC ONE said: "Barry has made an enormous contribution to BBC ONE and to the film industry for over 26 years.

"To millions of viewers he has personified film for nearly three decades and we are naturally sorry to see him go."

But he added: "The BBC has always had strong links with the cinema and that will continue. Films are of great interest, particularly to the young, and it is important for us to find popular TV's new face of film who will appeal to them and take us into the new millennium."

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