Don't call Nick Ross - he's hanging up his microphone

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The Independent Online
Nick Ross is quitting his popular morning phone-in programme on Radio 4 after 10 years, having never got the call to become one of the corporation's elite group of heavyweight anchormen.

The final straw for the 49-year-old presenter - who aired his grievances at a meeting of BBC executives on Tuesday - is believed to have come when Peter Sissons was asked to take over his slot during the forthcoming general election campaign, when it will link-up with television for a series of17 bi-media debates involving leading politicians.

Call Nick Ross had also been rumoured to be high on a list of programmes which are to be axed or drastically revamped in a series of sweeping changes by Radio 4's new controller, James Boyle, and his freshly hired squad of thirtysomething commissioning editors.

The show has made headlines, notoriously when an inmate at a high-security prison called in to sympathise with the former Prison Service chief, Derek Lewis, sacked by the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, in 1995, and when Nick Ross admitted listeners with regional accents were more likely to get their views aired than Londoners.

But Mr Ross - who also presents Crimewatch UK on BBC1 - is being careful not to alienate his employers as he prepares to bow out. Diplomatically, he stated yesterday that he had been thinking hard about his future since December when the programme celebrated its 10th anniversary.

"It is a huge privilege to chair a phone-in for the Radio 4 audience. But a decade is a long time. I need to progress, the programme needs to progress and the network needs to progress. I wanted to leave on a high. It's a great institution, one to which I"ll now listen and - if I get through - call into."

Mr Boyle _ who has been dubbed "McBirt" because of his Scottish origins and alleged devotion to BBC director-general John Birt's allegedly brutal style of management - paid tribute to Ross. "Nick will always be a valued contributor to Radio 4." he said.

Rob Brown