Sir Michael Parkinson attacks 'youth obsession' and 'distortion standards' of modern television


An obsession with youth has "distorted the standards" of today's TV, Sir Michael Parkinson has said.

The former chat show host, 78, called for the return of a daily current affairs show such as Tonight and said that today's equivalent, The One Show, was no match for the 1950/60s series, which attracted audiences of seven million.

He told the Radio Times that broadcasters Sir David Frost and Alan Whicker, who both died recently, were his "inspirational heroes".

But he added: "Television in the 60s and 70s was a thrilling and exhilarating business to be part of. There were few rules, focus groups had not been invented - or if they had they were generally ignored.

"The newly formed ITV stations were run by gifted entrepreneurs and the BBC by an adroit mix of showbiz and journalism. Producers were unencumbered by such irksome obstacles as compliance, health and safety and frustrating commissioning procedures."

He added: "The biggest difference of all between then and now was defined ... by (former home secretary) David Blunkett when he described the 'worship' of the 'cult of youth' by modern TV bosses as 'an unstoppable fetish'.

"To indicate how much this obsession has distorted the standards set by the likes of Frost and Whicker, let us compare Tonight featuring Whicker, Fyfe Robertson, Cliff Michelmore, Trevor Philpott et al with its present-day equivalent.

"The One Show is an agreeable frolic but it's hardly a finishing school for a generation of television reporters," he said of the BBC1 programme.

The chat show host, who announced earlier this year that he had prostate cancer, added: "When you compare the kind of talk show David Frost developed with its modern counterpart you realise you are dealing with a vanished species."

While technology had changed much of TV for the better, much of the content was worse, he said.

"Why don't we have a daily, topical, irreverent magazine programme like Tonight? Where is the talk show that is not masquerading as a comic frivolity, and why since the 60s have we never produced anything as controversial, innovative and inspiring as TW3 (That Was the Week That Was)?", he said in the magazine.