After 45 years, Baker quits BBC for Classic

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Richard Baker, the veteran radio presenter, is to leave the BBC after 45 years to join Classic FM, it was announced yesterday. The move is the latest in a head-hunting battle between the award-winning commercial station and its arch rival, BBC Radio 3.

The former television newsreader, who will be 70 this year, said of his move: "I have been at the BBC for 45 years and I have many friends there and many happy memories. I now look forward to the new opportunities which will arise from my association with Classic FM."

Classic FM's programme controller, Michael Bukht, who doubles as the Crafty Cook on Henry Kelly's weekday morning show, said that station executives had been trying "for some time" to entice Baker from the BBC. He added: "We are absolutely delighted that such a popular and distinguished broadcaster will be heard regularly on Classic FM."

Baker read the television news for 28 years and hosted Radio 4's Start the Week for 17 years. He is presenting his 32nd and final Last Night of The Proms for the BBC this year.

He will take over the Saturday morning Classic Countdown show in October from Paul Gambaccini. Baker will also be involved in other Classic FM shows as a presenter.

Radio 3 said later it was "very sad" to be losing Baker from network radio after so many years as the "voice of classical music".

But Baker's move comes just weeks after Radio 3 poached Paul Gambaccini, Classic FM's top-rated presenter. Gambaccini had been at the commercial station for three years and was the presenter of the Saturday morning show Classic Countdown, which was grabbing listeners from the BBC.

It was announced that Gambaccini would be a co-presenter with Baker on Radio 3 - until Baker was poached by Classic FM. Baker's BBC contract ends in September and he will be recording shows until then, which will be broadcast after he has left the station.