Sir David Frost calls upon Tony Hall to take a knife to BBC's management structure

 

Having worked for the BBC for more than 50 years, Sir David Frost has advised the new Director-General Tony Hall that he must take a knife to the organisation’s debilitating management structure.

In an interview with The Independent, the distinguished presenter said that the BBC’s ability to operate efficiently was being hindered by an excess of executive level employees. He called upon Lord Hall to take the same tough stance as he had in 2001 on becoming chief executive of the Royal Opera House, which was then beset by claims of managerial failings.

“He has come back at just the right moment. I think that one thing that you talk to people about inside the BBC and outside the BBC and everybody seems to feel that there is one level at least of middle management that could be sacrificed and not replaced. There’s too much middle management at the BBC,” he said. “The interesting thing is that the middle management and possibly the higher management crisis at the BBC is very similar to the situation that the Royal Opera House was in when Tony arrived there. There were all those stories about rifts.”

Sir David, who came to prominence at the BBC presenting the groundbreaking satirical sketch show That Was The Week That Was in 1962, hosts a programme for BBC4 tonight examining the demise of that genre.

He said that Frost on Sketch Shows, which will include contributions from Stephen Fry, Catherine Tate and Michael Palin, will highlight British television’s failure to produce a successful sketch show in the past six years.

“Everybody tends to feel that there has been a dearth of sketch shows since really Little Britain came to an end in 2006 and The Catherine Tate Show in 2007. Since then a new sketch show hasn’t come along,” he said.

Sir David said that he had detected fear within the television industry that the lack of sketch shows was harming the emergence of new comedy stars. “The people in this field are very concerned because the other fantastically important thing is that the sketch show is a spring board for people to go into other forms of comedy,” he said. “Some have seen sketch shows as the birthplace of new half hour shows and they are very concerned that there will be a new wave of comedy coming in. The sketch show gives people a great opportunity to train and develop.”

In his programme, Sir David has explored the BBC archive for clips of the great sketch show performers from wartime radio show It’s That Man Again and Variety stars such as Ken “Daft as a Brush” Platt to the Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise and Bruce Forsyth.

He acknowledged that audience nostalgia for historic television was threatened by the wave of allegations against former entertainment stars, including Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Obviously any one of these terrible incidents where people were assaulted is one too many but I don’t know whether we are talking of something more widespread than the people who have been singled out so far. It’s that question between whether it is a small group of people or if it is wider.”

Speaking in the study of his London offices, surrounded by photographs taken with world leaders including Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, Sir David also talked of his continuing plans for interviewing world figures for the Al Jazeera English network, for which he has worked since 2006. A new series of “The Frost Interview”, beginning in July, will see him speaking to spaceman Buzz Aldrin, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and racing driver Lewis Hamilton.

At 74, he retains his appetite – “as much as ever” - for such encounters. “I could never understand how people could want to retire,” he said. But there is one world leader at the top of his interview wish list: Robert Mugabe.

In a typical aside, he mentioned how the comedian Bob Monkhouse had alerted him to the fact that “Mugabe spelt backwards is e-ba-gum”.

Though Sir David spoke briefly with the Zimbabwean leader at a Commonwealth summit in 1991, he has never subjected him to the Frost treatment, with its mixture of easy charm and strategic interrogation. “He has lived longer as leader than anyone thought was possible,” he said.

‘Frost on Sketch Shows’ is on BBC Four at 9pm tonight

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project