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Shock for YTV as Christa is poached

The BBC today stunned rivals YTV by poaching top presenter Christa Ackroyd.

The long-time Calendar star will now present BBC1's Look North, with her friend Harry Gration.

The news is a major blow to the commercial channel, which has struggled to attract viewers since its programmes were overhauled in a network reshuffle.

The BBC's new "dream team" will start working together in the autumn.

Said Bradford-born Christa: "I've really enjoyed my time with YTV but the offer to join the BBC was irresistible."

Current Look North presenter Clare Frisby will in future be seen on a new BBC service for viewers in Hull.

Colin Philpott, head of regional programmes at BBC North, said: "I have no doubt that the combination of Harry, Christa and Clare is one that will appeal to viewers right across the region."

At YTV, executives were said to have had no warning of today's news. But within two hours of being handed Christa's resignation they had promoted Christine Talbot, former host of the defunct Tonight show, to replace her. Calendar's co-host, former TV-am presenter Mike Morris will stay with the show.

Calendar has slumped dramatically in the ratings in the last few years. In the early Nineties, with Christa and Richard Whiteley at the helm, it had a 3-1 lead over Look North. But by 1999, the two shows were neck-and-neck, each attracting around 700,000 viewers a night.

An industry insider said: "People used to watch YTV for the national news and then stay tuned for Calendar. But all that changed when the network swapped them around. At the same time, Harry Gration rejoined Look North after a spell away and its figures went up dramatically. YTV must have been kicking themselves for not signing him when he was available."

A BBC spokesman said: "Harry and Christa are great mates and I'm sure there will be tremendous on-screen chemistry."

Christa, who joined YTV 12 years ago, previously worked in radio and newspapers in Bradford and Leeds, and in 1999 hosted the T&A's Bradford's Best awards.

Today a YTV spokesman praised her contribution to the station over the years.

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