Michael Parkinson: programmes like The One Show don’t live up to David Frost’s legacy

BBC compliance issues and attempts to attract a youth audience are damaging TV journalism says Sir Michael


The road paved by TV pioneers such as the late Sir David Frost and Alan Whicker has “disappeared” says Sir Michael Parkinson, thanks to BBC compliance procedures and an “obsession” with chasing a youth audience.


Writing in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, the talk show icon says these modern trends have “distorted the standards set by the likes of Frost and Whicker” and that today’s offerings, such as BBC1 weekday magazine The One Show, do not compare favourably with 1950s counterparts like the Tonight programme.

“The One Show is an agreeable frolic,” says Parkinson, “but it’s hardly a finishing school for a generation of television reporters. Or maybe it is, thus proving the point that the road the pioneers paved has disappeared.

“Similarly, when you compare the kind of talk show David Frost developed with its modern counterpart you realise you are dealing with a vanished species.”

Parkinson says he agrees with recent Radio Times columnist David Blunkett that the “worship” of the “cult of youth” by modern TV bosses is “an unstoppable fetish” and has “distorted the standards set by the likes of Frost and Whicker”.

He also points to today’s more conservative industry practices as stifling creativity, and fondly recalls the days when “producers were unencumbered by such irksome obstacles as compliance, health and safety and frustrating commissioning procedures.”

Sir David Frost died earlier this month, aged 74, while Alan Whicker passed away in July, aged 87.

Read the full interview with Sir Michael Parkinson in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, on sale now