David Frost v Richard Nixon voted best ever broadcast interview

Classic 1977 clash beats Kirsty Young, Victoria Derbyshire and Jeremy Paxman in RT poll

David Frost’s 1977 encounter with former US President Richard Nixon has been voted the greatest broadcast interview of all time by Radio Times readers.


In the poll, conducted to mark the BBC College of Journalism’s Art of the Interview season, Frost v Nixon garnered 19% of the total vote. This put it well ahead of the surprise second-place interview: Kirsty Young’s conversation with the singer Morrissey, on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 2009, which was picked out by 12% of respondents.

In third place (11%) was Victoria Derbyshire’s Radio 5 Live interview with Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke this year, in which Clarke appeared to downplay certain instances of rape as not “serious”.

The fourth most popular face-off was Jeremy Paxman’s dogged questioning of former Home Secretary Michael Howard in 1997: the edition of Newsnight in which Paxman asked Howard the same question 12 times consecutively (“Did you threaten to overrule him?”) received 8% of RT readers’ votes.

Frost’s grilling of Nixon – funded personally by the interviewer when US networks declined to commission it – was initially seen by a record-breaking 45 million viewers in the States. It revealed hitherto unknown details of the Watergate scandal and compounded many observers’ suspicion that Nixon, while in the White House, was guilty of obstruction of justice. The conversation was immortalised in Ron Howard’s 2008 film Frost/Nixon, with Michael Sheen playing Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon, and is now the subject of a BBC2 documentary.

Other popular interviews included Becky Milligan talking to Conservative MP Anthony Steen about the expenses scandal (Radio 4’s The World at One, 2009); Dennis Potter’s final interview, conducted by Melvyn Bragg on C4 in 1994; and Michael Parkinson sparring with Muhammad Ali in 1971.

See clips of some of the top interviews here.

The full results were as follows:


David Frost/Richard Nixon (1977) 18.6%
Kirsty Young/Morrissey, Desert Island Discs, Radio 4 (2009) 11.6%
Victoria Derbyshire/Ken Clarke, Radio 5 Live (2011) 10.8%
Jeremy Paxman/Michael Howard, Newsnight, BBC2 (1997) 7.8%
Becky Milligan/Anthony Steen, The World at One, Radio 4 (2009) 6.5%
Melvyn Bragg/Dennis Potter, C4 (1994) 5.5%
Michael Parkinson/Muhammad Ali (1971) 4.8%
Martin Bashir/Princess Diana, Panorama, BBC1 (1995) 4.6%
Diana Gould (Nationwide viewer)/Margaret Thatcher, BBC1 (1982) 4%
Sian Williams/PC David Rathband, Broadcasting House, Radio 4 (2010) 3.2%
Michael Parkinson/Emu (1976) 2.8%
Bill Grundy/Sex Pistols, Today, ITV (1977) 2%
Jon Snow/Alastair Campbell, Channel 4 News (2003) 1.7%
John Freeman/Gilbert Harding, Face to Face, BBC TV (1960) 1.4%
Gordon Wilson – Enniskillen (1987) 1.2%
Paxman Meets Hitchens: a Newsnight Special (2010) 1%
Owen Bennett Jones/Michael Caine, The Interview, BBC World Service (2011) 1%
Michael Parkinson/Meg Ryan, BBC1 (2003) Awkward 0.9%
Jon Snow/Zac Goldsmith, Channel 4 News (2010) 0.8%
Jeremy Vine/Gordon Brown, Radio 2 (2010) 0.7%
Katie Couric/Sarah Palin, CBS (2008) 0.7%
Tom Bradby/William & Kate, ITV News (2011) 0.7%
Graham Norton/Lady Gaga, The Graham Norton Show, BBC1 (2011) 0.6%
Robin Day/Japanese Foreign Minister, ITN (1959) 0.6%
Russell Harty/Grace Jones, BBC (1981) 0.6%
Robin Day/John Nott (1982) 0.6%
Oprah Winfrey/Michael Jackson (1993) 0.6%
Melvyn Bragg/Francis Bacon, South Bank Show, ITV (1985) 0.6%
Baroness (PD) James/Mark Thompson, Today, Radio 4 (2009) 0.6%
Adam Boulton/Alastair Campbell, Sky News (2010) 0.5%
David Frost/Kenneth Tynan & David Irving (1968) 0.4%
Hugh Stephenson & James Bellini/Sir James Goldsmith, The Money Programme (1977) 0.3%
Paula Yates/Michael Hutchence, Big Breakfast, C4 (1994) 0.3%
Peter White/Christopher Reeve, No Triumph No Tragedy, Radio 4 (1999) 0.3%
Dan Rather/Saddam Hussein, CBS (2003) 0.3%
Jeremy Paxman/Mark Thompson, Newsnight, BBC2 (2010) 0.3%
Redhead/Nigel Lawson, Today, Radio 4 (1987) 0.2%
Jenni Murray/Monica Lewinsky, Woman’s Hour, Radio 4 (1999) 0.2%
Ruby Wax with Jim Carrey, BBC1 (2003) 0.2%
Fern Britton/Tony Blair, Fern Britton Meets, BBC1 (2009) 0.2%
Piers Morgan/Cheryl Cole, Life Stories, ITV1 (2010) 0.1%
Brian Oprah Winfrey/Tom Cruise (2005) 0.1%
John Wilson/Bob Geldof, Meeting Myself Coming Back, Radio 4 (2011) 0.1%
Adam Boulton/George & Laura Bush, Sky News (2008) 0%
Jenni Murray/Sharon Shoesmith, Woman’s Hour, Radio 4 (2009) 0%