His urbane manner and oft-imitated vocal delivery have been staples of the Sunday morning TV schedules for more than a decade. But now, Sir David Frost faces the threat of becoming the latest BBC stalwart to be nudged aside in favour of a new generation of glamorous presenters.
Nine years after poaching him from ITV to front his weekly Breakfast with Frost programme on BBC1, corporation bosses are said to have decided that the 62-year-old broadcasting legend has reached his sell-by date. Dismayed by what they regard as his increasingly laid-back and lenient interview style, they are believed to be considering a range of options, including replacing his show with a revamped version of fellow Sunday mainstay On the Record.
One BBC current affairs insider said: "There is a sense of frustration at pretty senior levels with Frost. Ten years ago he was on top form, but it doesn't seem quite the same now."
Since Sir David's 9am Sunday programme started on BBC1 in 1992, it has become a weekly must-see for MPs, pundits and anyone with an appetite for a helping of politics before breakfast. Over the years, the sofa-based show has featured interviews with all but a handful of the biggest hitters in parliamentary politics, including the various prime ministers and opposition leaders of the day.
If Sir David were to be ushered aside, he would be the latest casualty of BBC director-general Greg Dyke's apparent determination to sweep away the corporation's old "men in suits" image. Among those who have recently lost their jobs are former economics editor Peter Jay and political editor Robin Oakley, who took early retirement after being replaced by Andrew Marr last year. In the meantime, there have been promotions for a number of bright young stars, including newsreader George Alagiah, who has often deputised for Peter Sissons on the 10 O'Clock News, and Six O'Clock News presenter Fiona Bruce, who became the first woman to join the studio team on election night this year.
Sir David's departure would hand further ammunition to those who have accused Mr Dyke of "dumbing down" current affairs. Champions of the Frost show argue that it is one of only a handful of current affairs programmes that consistently manages to maintain a high media profile by attracting big-name interviewees whose very presence on its guest list is sufficient to grab headlines.
News of the proposed shake-up comes as the BBC launches a wide-ranging review to determine how it should best report politics in the wake of the poor turnout at the recent general election. Newsnight editor Sian Kevill, who is overseeing the three-month exercise, denied she would be involved in making decisions about the future of specific programmes or presenters. A spokesman for Breakfast with Frost denied it was facing the axe, saying: "It's absolute rubbish to suggest that any one programme has already been earmarked for the chop."
Sir David was unavailable for comment last night, but John Humphrys of On the Record told The Independent on Sunday he did not believe that the poor turnout at the latest election meant the public had fallen out of love with politics for good.
"I can understand why some people are worried when they look at the ratings for the election programmes and the number of people who voted, but there's a simple explanation for that," he said. "It was a deeply boring election, try as we and John Prescott did. There was absolutely no question as to who would win."Reuse content