Norman tells of 'happy' contrast with BBC job

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The Independent Online

The veteran critic Barry Norman launched a thinly-veiled attack on the BBC yesterday, suggesting the corporation had been an unhappy place to work.

The veteran critic Barry Norman launched a thinly-veiled attack on the BBC yesterday, suggesting the corporation had been an unhappy place to work.

Mr Norman, who left Television Centre in summer 1998 to take up a lucrative position at Sky, had not previously spoken in detail about his reasons for leaving. But in a seemingly damning reference to his 26 years at the corporation, Mr Norman wrote in a magazine column that at Sky he was now enjoying the "almost forgotten pleasure of working among people who are both enthusiastic and happy".

He also revealed that he sympathised with Desmond Lynam, who became the latest in a string of high-profile presenters to abandon the corporation when he left for ITV in August. Mr Norman wrote in the New Statesman: "When I left the BBC, I didn't fall, I wasn't pushed, I jumped - just as Des Lynam has done since. I can't speak for Des but I hope he is rediscovering in his new berth, as I am in mine, the almost forgotten pleasure of working among people who are both enthusiastic and happy."

The outburst will come as a shock to the BBC because Mr Norman, 65, has played a straight bat to journalists about reasons for leaving, saying only that he did so of his own choosing. One criticism he shared with Mr Lynam was having their programmes repeatedly shunted around the schedules by programmers.

The big names who left the corporation in recent years include the sports broadcasters Murray Walker, Jimmy Hill, Richie Benaud and David Gower, the actor Ross Kemp and the high-profile journalist Martin Bashir. The situation is is so severe that last month a new controller of talent management was appointed to try to stop high-flyers leaving.

Mr Norman's departure was followed by the BBC losing the Oscars rights to Sky, so he could continue to front the programme.

Mr Norman, 65, said in his column he was enjoying presenting Barry Norman's Film Night on Sky Premier "very much" and not just because he was paid well. He said he had no problem working for Rupert Murdoch, despite not agreeing with everything he did. He had been an ardent Labour supporter while on the rightleaning Daily Mail in the 1960s, proof that people did not need to agree with their employers to work for them.

A BBC spokesman said: "This claim that people are not happy here is not one shared by other top names. In the last 48 hours, Paul Whitehouse and Michael Parkinson have given interviews saying it is a great place to work.

"It is only natural that there is some movement of talent between the BBC and other people, and in many cases broadcasters have gone for substantial sums of money which a publicly funded broadcaster could not justify."

Mr Norman, who was filming an edition of his weekly show yesterday, declined to add to his comments.

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