Howay the lad! Lottery presenter `sacked over Geordie accent'

FIRST BORIS Johnson claimed the BBC sacked him from a presenting job on Radio 4 because his plummy tones were too posh; now a Geordie darts commentator claims he too has lost his job because viewers found his accent impenetrable.

Sid Waddell, 57, said he had been sacked as a National Lottery presenter just days after announcing the winning numbers in last week's draw and providing voiceovers for the accompanying show, Red Alert, presented by the singer Lulu.

Mr Waddell said Ginger Productions, which produces Red Alert for the BBC, was told to get rid of him because his accent was too regional. "I'm totally perplexed by all this," he said yesterday. "Three days after the show I was told by Ginger that I was being got rid of because the BBC felt my accent was too strong.

"I'm flabbergasted at getting the sack, when the BBC knows my voice very well, having commentated on darts for them for 15 years, before BSkyB seven years ago. In the weeks before the start of the show I did six recorded practice runs at voicing the balls, two recorded rehearsals and a pilot programme in front of the audience. All that seemed to go well and the BBC approved everything two weeks ago."

A spokeswoman for the BBC said the decision was between Ginger Productions, run by Chris Evans, and Mr Waddell. "It is a new programme, the format is still evolving and changes will be made but to say it is because of his accent is rubbish. If we disliked accents why would we have the programme presented by a Scotswoman and an Essex boy?" she said. No one from Ginger Productions was available for comment.

The first Red Alert show, co-presented by Terry Alderton, a comedian who was nominated for the Perrier Award at last year's Edinburgh Festival, attracted only 6.25 million viewers - a disappointment for the BBC which was hoping for a bigger boost to its Saturday night ratings. A new presenter has been found for tonight's show. Mr Johnson, editor of The Spectator and a former presenter of The Week in Westminster, is reported to have apologised for his claim about being sacked. He said he had a column to write and was feeling a little "frivolous".

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