Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Friday, 5 September 2008 11:47 UK

Second Blue Peter newcomer named

Joel Defries (left) with Andy Akinwolere and Helen Skelton
Defries (left) is Blue Peter's third new presenter in two years

Joel Defries has been unveiled as the latest presenter on Blue Peter.

The 23-year-old Londoner said he was "so happy" to join Andy Akinwolere and fellow newcomer Helen Skelton for the new series of the BBC children's show.

"Being the presenter of Blue Peter is one of the finest jobs in the world," he said. "I wake up every day thinking I can't believe this is happening."

His hiring follows claims by former editor Biddy Baxter that the BBC has let the show go "pear-shaped".

"It seems they want it to go out with a whimper, not a bang," the 74-year-old said in an interview published in the Times last weekend.

But the BBC said it remained "passionately" committed to the programme as it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

'Strong and healthy'

"The future for Blue Peter in our eyes is strong and healthy," a spokeswoman said.

"For the past 50 years, the show has been the cornerstone of children's programming in this country and it is something of which we are immensely proud."

I have never been so happy and can't wait to see what other adventures Blue Peter has lined up for me
Joel Defries

Defries, voted by his schoolmates as "person most likely to present a TV show", spent time growing up in India and New Zealand.

It was in the latter country that he had his first taste of television presenting, hosting a three-hour live music show five days a week.

Outside presenting, he is a keen filmgoer and a season ticket holder at Fulham Football Club.

Defries and Skelton's debuts follow the departure of former hosts Gethin Jones and Zoe Salmon at the end of the previous series.

Blue Peter adds Skelton to team
28 Aug 08 |  Entertainment
Blue Peter's Zoe Salmon to quit
20 May 08 |  Entertainment
Gethin Jones to quit Blue Peter
08 Apr 08 |  Entertainment


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