Norton picks up Wogan's Eurovision reins

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The Independent Culture

Chat show host Graham Norton will replace Sir Terry Wogan as commentator on the Eurovision Song Contest, the BBC said.

Fellow Irishman Norton will take the reins in the 2009 contest, which will be hosted in Moscow.

Veteran presenter Sir Terry, 70, had cast doubt on whether he would be involved in covering the event again at this year's contest.

He said it was "no longer a music contest" and that prospects for Western European participants were "poor".

The show has been dogged by accusations of bloc voting, which was blamed by some for leaving Britain's 2008 contestant, Andy Abraham, with only 14 points.

Sir Terry, who has spent more than three decades guiding viewers through the contest, said he would be "sad to leave it all behind".

He said: "I've had 35 wonderful years commentating on the Eurovision for radio and television.

"From my first, in a small music-hall in Dublin, to my last, in the huge arena in Belgrade, it has been nothing but laughter and fun.

"The silly songs, the spectacle, the grandiose foolishness of it all. Let's hope that between (Norton) and the musical brilliance of Lloyd Webber, Royaume Uni will gather its proper share of 'Douze Points' and bring the Grand Prix home to where it belongs."

Norton, a long time Eurovision fan, described it as "an amazing job and a huge honour".

He said: "Sir Terry is nothing less than legend and is an impossible act to follow, but somebody must and I just couldn't say no.

"I can't wait to get to Moscow. With a combination of cheap vodka and a language barrier what could possibly go wrong?"

Norton will host Your Country Needs You in the New Year - the British public's chance to choose the act that will perform Andrew Lloyd Webber's specially composed song in Moscow 2009.

Norton's association with the Eurovision title began with the Eurovision Dance Contest which he has presented for the last two years.

Jay Hunt, Controller of BBC One, thanked Sir Terry for his work on the programmes.

"Terry has enhanced viewer's enjoyment of Eurovision for many years," she said. "I am delighted that Graham Norton will now be bringing his wit to bear on this iconic music event."