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'Parky' defects to ITV

Chat show host Michael Parkinson has sensationally quit the BBC and defected to ITV, he announced today.

The veteran presenter made the move after BBC bosses tried to shunt his talk show into a different slot to make way for the return of Match Of The Day.

"I'm very sorry to leave the BBC, of course I am," he said.

"I have spent 20-odd years of my working life with the BBC and I don't turn my back on that lightly. But when the BBC brought back Match of the Day, effectively my spot had gone.

"When they bought the Premiership, they sold my playing field."

Parkinson said he was sorry to be saying goodbye to the BBC, explaining: "You can't walk away from somewhere after so many years without some regret."

But he was left with no choice but to join a rival broadcaster after "long and protracted" negotiations with the BBC came to nothing.

BBC bosses tried to move the Parkinson show to 9pm on a Wednesday, which he rejected. Their final offer was 9pm on a Saturday - an hour earlier than its current slot.

"In the end, I wanted Saturday and I wanted 10 o'clock on a Saturday, and they wouldn't give it to me. I had a choice - either retire and walk away or go elsewhere," Parkinson said.

"Saturday at 9pm was a very good offer but my view has always been it's a talk show and talk shows belong at 10 o'clock.

"A show at nine o'clock has to become something else, like a variety show. There's nothing wrong with that but I didn't want to do it."

The chat show veteran said BBC bosses were "shocked" when he made the bombshell announcement that he was joining ITV.

He signed the contract only this afternoon after taking the weekend to decide his future.

Describing the reaction of BBC executives, he said: "Of course they were not pleased. They were shocked in a sense because nobody saw this coming. But what can I do? Could I have stayed on doing a show I would be unhappy with? I think not and I think they understood that."

He added: "I just had this predicament and it wasn't one I enjoyed sorting out. ITV made the offer and what they did was give me what I wanted."

Parkinson said his ITV show would be much the same as the one he has presented on BBC1 for the past 18 years.

"The guests won't change, the show won't change," he said. "All I've done is move the show over. It's a proven show and will work just as well on ITV as on the BBC."

The BBC said the last Parkinson show would be broadcast on May 8, with Bruce Forsyth and Boris Becker as guests.

BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey said: "Michael Parkinson is the doyen of talk show hosts and it has been fantastic to have his show on BBC1.

"With Match of the Day returning to Saturday nights we were unable to offer Michael the slot he wanted.

"Of course I'm sorry to see him go but BBC1 was already preparing for the future with big names from the next generation who are moving the talk show on."

Executive producer Bea Ballard said: "I've worked with Michael as his executive producer since Parkinson was brought back by the BBC six years ago, in 1998.

"Since then we've completed 12 fantastic series, with many notable and headline-grabbing interviews.

"The show has won many awards and I'm hugely proud of it.

"Michael is a brilliant interviewer and it's been a huge delight to work with him."