Bruce Forsyth 'humiliated' by ITV director's lack of 'respect'

The veteran entertainer Bruce Forsyth added to the woes of ITV's beleaguered director of programmes, David Liddiment, yesterday, insisting that he would no longer work for the network while Mr Liddiment remains at the helm.

The veteran entertainer Bruce Forsyth added to the woes of ITV's beleaguered director of programmes, David Liddiment, yesterday, insisting that he would no longer work for the network while Mr Liddiment remains at the helm.

Coincidentally, Forsyth made his name on ITV in the late Fifties with the catchphrase "I'm in charge".

Hosting a small but perfectly-formed press conference, in a lavish suite at The Dorchester Hotel, central London, Forsyth said that Mr Liddiment had treated him more shabbily than anyone else had managed to do in more than 50 years in show business.

He is furious that ITV appears to have axed his game show, Play Your Cards Right. It has not been shown since June 1999, yet Mr Liddiment is evidently playing his own cards close to his chest, and will not confirm whether it has been axed or not.

But what irks Forsyth even more is the seemingly cavalier scheduling of his other game show, Bruce's Price is Right, which last Saturday was shown in the undesirable teatime slot of 5.20pm. Accordingly, the audience dropped from 8.5 million to 3.6 million.

"Even Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? would have no chance at that time," Forsyth said. "Never in more than 40 years on ITV have I been out of primetime. This man has embarrassed me, humiliated me, and shown me no respect whatsoever."

As if distributing game-show instructions to contestants, Forsyth jauntily handed assembled journalists a series of charts to show that, unlike many programmes on ITV, whose overall audience share appears to be in terminal decline, neither of his shows had been under-performing in primetime.

On the contrary, Bruce's Price is Right has exceeded a healthy 40 per cent audience share in five of its last seven months. But of 16 shows recorded in 1999, only 11 were transmitted, an oversight for which Mr Liddiment apologised in a letter to Forysth, explaining that there had been a "cock-up" in scheduling, that the department had just changed hands, "and this fell through the crack".

Nevertheless, in a meeting between the two men in thesummer, Forsyth asked bluntly whether the ITV chief was, despite his continued ratings success, trying "to phase me out". Mr Liddiment, he claims, avoided answering the question. "I would much rather somebody had the guts to say to me, 'it's time to call it a day'."

Not that the 72-year-old has any intention of calling it a day. He is contracted to record one more series of Bruce's Price is Right, after which he is planning to write a book, and may take his one-man show back on the road. And he is open to offers from other broadcasters.

"I've always said that I would retire when I no longer get enjoyment from walking on to the studio floor, or the stage, or when my ratings go," he said. "That hasn't happened, so I'm simply axeing myself from ITV and this man. What he's done to me I can not forgive him for."

In response, Mr Liddiment yesterday expressed sadness, and declared himself a huge fan. "Bruce Forsyth is probably the greatest all-round entertainer British television has ever known and ITV is immensely proud of its long and successful relationship with him," he said, adding: "It has been a delight for me to work with him over the past three years and I am very sorry he feels the way he does."

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