Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Stourton 'devastated' by removal

Edward Stourton
Stourton is said to be "very sad" to be leaving Radio 4's flagship programme

Broadcaster Edward Stourton is said to be "devastated" after finding out he was to be replaced on Radio 4's flagship Today programme.

"It was a complete surprise to me," he told the Guardian.

On Friday the BBC announced that Justin Webb, its North America editor, would be joining Today and that Stourton was leaving "to work on other projects".

Stourton said he had only found out a day earlier when a journalist contacted him to ask if it was true.

"I picked up a message on my phone on Thursday asking me about the rumours that I was about to be sacked, which was the first I had heard of it," he told the Telegraph.

'Out of the blue'

"So I rang Ceri Thomas, my editor at Today, and he said, 'I'm afraid it's true'.

"I felt winded as it came completely out of the blue."

Stourton, who has presented Today since 1999, also said it was "simply not true" he would be working "on other projects" after his departure.

"I did think it was wrong of [the BBC] to say that," he is quoted as saying. "I am leaving because they've removed me - there are no other projects."

The BBC declined to comment on Stourton's version of events, saying it would not be "discussing the minutiae" of the situation.

Last week, Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said in a statement: "Ed Stourton will continue to grace Radio 4 after he leaves Today.

"He is a distinguished journalist with a terrific track record in a host of Radio 4 programmes."

So far 89 listeners have contacted the BBC to complain about Stourton's departure from Today, which is set to take place next year.

The broadcaster told the Telegraph it would be "very difficult" to continue in his post until Webb joins Today next autumn.

"I hope I am able to stay with them but at this rather bleak moment I can't quite see how I do it."

Stourton was a founding member of Channel 4 News in 1982, working as a scriptwriter, then producer, duty home news editor and chief sub-editor.

He joined the BBC in 1988 as Paris correspondent, and presented the One O'Clock news for six years from 1993.

His previous work for Radio 4 includes the series The Violence Files, Asia Gold and Global Shakeout.

In 2001 he won the Amnesty International Award for Best Television Documentary for Israel Accused.

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