I got a call at lunchtime today about the death of Sir David Frost. It came as a real shock because this man was a Colossus. A true giant of Broadcasting and Journalism. Here was a man who had been at the top of his profession (and game,) for fifty years. As long as I have been on the Planet.
My earliest memories of watching David Frost on Television was during the late 1960s where at one point, he was virtually never off television over the course of a weekend. At the time London Weekend Television had won the weekend television franchise for the Independent Television (ITV) Network in the London area. This new television company was struggling and David Frost was their biggest asset. So as a six year old, I would be sitting with my father, late evenings, watching David work his magic as shrewd interviewer and political operator. This is where my lessons in politics and current affairs began oddly enough (thinking about it now). There were other shrewd television operators like Robin Day (later Sir Robin,) but David Frost had something about him. He was youthful, had an intellect far beyond his looks, his years and of course he was ambitious. He was also fearless, asking the most awkward of questions, which would gain the kind of responses one does not get from the politicians, players, movers and shakers of today, who either avoid the question entirely or answer the question with an answer to the question they would have liked to have been asked. Those who were intelligent and shrewd back then, would rise to the occasion and answer the question. They had no choice.
The 1970s saw Frost go transatlantic, probably one of the few British Broadcasters and Journalists of his generation to do so. Television had come of age on both sides of the Atlantic and while there were still good ideas coming into Television, Frost understood not just how Television worked on either side of the Atlantic but how it would work in Global terms. He became massive and influential on both sides of the Atlantic by clocking up the air miles presenting news, reporting on current events, interviewing those behind the news and presenting entertainment shows. In effect he was fast becoming not just an international player but a media mogul and millionaire in the process. His Guinness Book of Records TV shows are still remembered as is his introductory catchphrase: “Hello, welcome and good evening”.
Although his enduring legacy are many, his Interview with former American President Richard Nixon, is still regarded by many as a major journalistic coup. No one felt such a feat could be achieved but Frost proved them wrong by gaining access to the former President, conducting the Interview and getting Nixon to finally confess. Many years later the Interview and the story behind it would be immortalised on Broadway and in London’s West End, as well as a major motion picture starring Michael Sheen as Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon. Both appearing in their respective roles on Broadway, London’s West End in the Ron Howard directed Film of the play ‘Frost and Nixon.
In the 1980s he became one of the founders of Britain’s first national commercial television station TV-Am, which suffered from the same problems as London Weekend Television in being too highbrow and high-minded. Many changes took place and the company eventually became successful and profitable.
Sir David Frost OBE (Officer of the British Empire,) had continued for many years to be a firm fixture on British Television. His Sunday morning programme ‘Frost on Sunday’ ran from TV-Am’s inception in 1983 until the Company ceased broadcasting in 1992, He then took the format to the BBC under the name ‘Breakfast with Frost’ running until 2005. For more than twenty years he was a major fixture of Sunday morning television in the UK. His like will never been seen again.