By Tom Harper
Mail on Sunday
It is his first year in the job but new Eurovision presenter Graham Norton has already sparked a diplomatic row.
The BBC has apologised after the 46-year-old offended thousands of Albanians during last Saturday’s live broadcast.
Popular: Top Albanian popstar Kejsi Tola, aged 17, performing with a blue dancer at the Eurovision Song Contest
Norton triggered widespread anger when he lampooned Albania’s 17-year-old entrant Kejsi Tola, who danced with a masked man in a blue spangly jumpsuit.
Norton told viewers: ‘The bad news is you are about to see Albania. Whenever you see Eurovision there is a moment where you go, “What?” Maybe you’ve had that already.
'Trust me, you haven’t.’
Controversial comments: Graham Norton's popularity in Albania has taken a hit
His comments led the nightly news bulletins in Albania last weekend.
Muhamed Veliu, of Top Channel – the country’s biggest TV station – said they had been flooded with complaints.
‘Albanians living in Britain were very upset and were texting me asking, “Why should an Albanian singer be bad news for Graham Norton?”’
An internet petition calling Norton ‘very rude and insulting’ and demanding an apology has attracted 1,200 signatures.
Kejsi Tola is one of Albania’s biggest stars after winning the TV talent show Albanian Idol in 2007.
At the Moscow Eurovision contest, she came 17th out of 25 entries.
Armend Elezi, an Albanian student at the London School of Economics, made a formal complaint to the BBC about Norton’s commentary.
He said: ‘A joke needs to keep away from racial connotations.’
The BBC said it received 117 complaints and issued a statement saying: ‘Graham’s commentary was in his own inimitable style.’
Terry Wogan stepped down last year from his BBC Eurovision duties after 30 years.
Britain's entry: Jade Ewen performs as composer Andrew Lloyd Webber plays the piano during the final
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