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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 14:25 GMT
'Golden handcuff deal' for historian
Moral Maze presenter Michael Buerk with Janet Daley, David Starkey, Edward Pearce and David Cook
Dr Starkey (second from left) with the Moral Maze team
Broadcaster Channel 4 has said it hopes to sign the first exclusive UK television contract with a historian - Dr David Starkey.

The contract would see Dr Starkey presenting 25 hours of history programming on the channel over the next four years, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Exclusive contracts are more normally used to tie big-name entertainers such as soap stars to television channels - they are not normally associated with middle-aged academics.

A spokesman for Channel 4 confirmed negotiations with Dr Starkey were at an advanced stage, and the channel hoped to close the deal soon.

Simon Schama
The other history man: Professor Simon Schama

Dr Starkey has presented two of the most watched history series the channel has screened - one on King Henry VIII's wives, the other on Queen Elizabeth I.

The success of Dr Starkey's series is one manifestation of the current mini-boom in history programmes on television.

The programmes followed professor Simon Schama's series for the BBC, A History of Britain, which won huge popular and critical acclaim when it first went out in 2000.

The news of Channel 4's planned deal comes as the BBC launches BBC Four, its new digital channel devoted to culture and the arts.

History programmes occupy a significant chunk of the BBC Four schedule - and Dr Starkey is thought to be the sort of presenter the new channel would be keen to employ.

Dr Starkey is already a well known voice on the BBC, having for some years contributed to BBC Radio 4's ethical discussion programme The Moral Maze.

The magazine History Today has described him as a "resolute executioner" in the programme's debates.

See also:

14 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Interactive art launches BBC Four
14 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Picture gallery: BBC Four
15 Jun 01 | TV and Radio
A history of Simon Schama
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