Today’s papers are full of tributes to the broadcaster David Frost, who passed away yesterday at the age of 74. I spoke to his friend and fellow broadcaster Andrew Neil this morning about his memories of the journalist as well as Frost’s broadcasting legacy:
Andrew discusses the last time he spoke to Frost and his upcoming plans for remaking The Dam Busters:
‘I spoke to him in July at his party and we’d arranged to have a lunch this month. We were going to have a catch up and a good gossip. David wasn’t just an entertainer, he wasn’t just a broadcast journalist, he was an entrepreneur. Paradine Productions was his company and he was always involved in doing deals and thinking up new things.
‘He was telling me he had bought the rights to The Dam Busters and was thinking of remaking the movie with modern effects and technology. I said to him “Have you got the music as well? It’s really the music that matters”. He said “You bet I have. The music comes with the movie rights.”’
On Frost as an inspiration to other broadcasters:
‘I think David Frost was an inspiration to all of my generation who were in broadcasting because he set the standard. He innovated so much and always got the best interviews. He combined this ability to entertain as well as to inform and therefore had the ability to reach a huge audience. At one stage, after the Queen and the Prime Minister, he was the best known person the country.’
And his unique mix of satire, entertainment and journalism:
‘I remember my other great mentor Alistair Burnet saying to David Frost he was the only journalist who managed to combine journalism with entertainment. That gave him a much wider appeal than most journalists because he was a household name through doing programmes like The Frost Report and TW3.
‘He did programmes at prime time when there were only three channels in Britain. These programmes got a massive audience and he took that audience from the popular entertainment programmes into the more serious interview journalism. I don’t think anyone in British broadcasting has ever done that. Alistair Burnet and Robin Day did the big serious interviews but they weren’t entertainers. Someone like Michael Parkinson would do the interviews with entertainers but they weren’t serious interviews. David Frost did both.’
Frost’s international appeal and the Frost/Nixon interviews:
‘The other thing that makes David Frost unique compared to other broadcasters was his international appeal. There was a time when Frost was as big of a household name in the United States as he was in the United Kingdom. Indeed, he was also a household name for a long time in Australia. He crossed the Atlantic, he crossed the Pacific and he was well known in other countries too.
‘What made him an international name above was all was the famous interviews with Nixon. It’s quite remarkable — a British interviewer got these interviews with what was (at the time) the most famous American president. Not an American journalist, but British. What other journalist can claim they’ve had a movie about one of the interviews they did. That’s unique’
And his legacy in British broadcasting:
Tags: Andrew Neil, David Frost
‘I think he will be remembered for a lot of things – he was a pioneer. When it comes to the history of British broadcasting and television, David Frost will come up a lot. He was in the forefront of the satire revolution of the early 1960s. He brought breakfast television to Britain – we’d never had it before till the early 1980s when he launched the first breakfast TV station – and he had the rights of lots of different programmes and formats.
‘I appeared on it and worked with him several times on Through the Keyhole, just a piece of prime time froth on a Friday night. A piece of good fun for a mass audience with no great intellectual importance, but he could feel as comfortable presenting that as he could interviewing Richard Nixon.’