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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 15:48 GMT
Norton signs exclusive BBC deal
Graham Norton
Graham Norton started out as a stand-up comic
Irish presenter Graham Norton has signed an exclusive deal with the BBC to develop ideas for Saturday night TV.

The chat show host will join BBC One from Channel 4 in April 2004.

"I'm convinced he will delight viewers of all ages at the heart of the Saturday night schedule," said BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey.

Norton, who has won a clutch of entertainment awards, has also recently signed a deal with US cable channel Comedy Network for a chat show.

Norton first found cult fame as a stand-up comic in London, before playing Father Noel Furlong in hit comedy Father Ted.

Channel 4 nurtured his talent, giving him his own irreverent chat show in 1997 which now runs five nights a week.

But he is trading his nightly show for a weekly hour-long programme filmed in New York, called NY Graham Norton, beginning in January.

Among his awards haul are four Baftas, six British Comedy Awards and an International Emmy.

Jane Lush, BBC controller of entertainment commissioning, said: "It's been my ambition to work with Graham ever since I took on the entertainment role and that's been no secret.


"We've spent a lot of time and effort wooing Graham to the BBC and I'm delighted that the deal we've put in place for him suits us both so well."

Norton's two-and-a-half year deal will see him primarily work on ideas for Saturday night shows, an area all channels are now struggling to fill.

Recent research indicated that Saturday night TV was the least watched of the week, a far cry from the millions who tuned into watch shows such as Blind Date and Noel's House Party in the early 1990s.

Although "event" television such as Fame Academy and Pop Idol have been popular with viewers, there has been a dearth of light entertainment shows.

The success of ITV's Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Take Away at the British Comedy Awards last week, voted for the by the public, proves there is still the appetite for the light entertainment genre.

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