My Life In Media: Sir David Frost

'I wrote spurious letters to a local paper. I once called for dogs to be shot for fouling footpaths. One person wrote in agreeing'
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The Independent Online

Sir David Frost, 66, is a broadcaster famous on both sides of the Atlantic for interviewing the powerful and the celebrated, including the last six prime ministers, the last seven American -presidents, Muhammad Ali, Orson Welles, Nelson Mandela, The Beatles and the Shah of Iran. He is covering this week's election results for LBC radio. The lastBreakfast with Frost airs on 29 May.

Sir David Frost, 66, is a broadcaster famous on both sides of the Atlantic for interviewing the powerful and the celebrated, including the last six prime ministers, the last seven American -presidents, Muhammad Ali, Orson Welles, Nelson Mandela, The Beatles and the Shah of Iran. He is covering this week's election results for LBC radio. The lastBreakfast with Frost airs on 29 May.

What inspired you to have a career in the media?

As a schoolboy, I had a very amusing time writing spurious letters to the local paper under a nom de plume, whipping up controversies. I once called for all dogs to be shot for fouling the footpath. Amazingly, one person wrote in saying he agreed, "but gassing them might be more humane". By the time I got to Cambridge, I knew I wanted to be involved in writing and appearing, so I edited Granta and joined Footlights comedy.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

My parents were passionate devotees of the News Chronicle and once a week they had a local paper. But they were opposed to the idea of Sunday newspapers, so if I wanted to catch up with the football results, I went across the road to Mrs Stewart, who had the Sunday Pic.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

We listened to the radio quite a bit, but didn't have a television until I was about 16. My treat on a Saturday night was to go across the road to Mr and Mrs O D Hall, to watch Benny Hill or Dave King, who did alternate weeks on BBC.

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

I have all the newspapers in the house or in the car on the way to a breakfast meeting.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I listen to Radio Five Live, for its immediacy and sport, and to LBC, for its focus on London and broadcasters like Sandi Toksvig and Andrew Pierce.

What is the best thing about your job?

Its variety: being able to switch from serious interviews like Tony Blair yesterday to lighter interviews like Elton John. From producing to writing and editing, to after-dinner speeches, I feel so fortunate.

And the worst?

People sometimes say: "How could you work so hard?" The answer is that three hours on one thing is a relaxation from something else.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

The Nixon Interviews, because of the scale [28 and three-quarter hours] and because everybody predicted it would be impossible to get new material. It was absolutely thrilling when he went further than we had hoped in terms of his mea culpa.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

I was interviewing Isaac Asimov, the great scientific writer, who was saying that he didn't believe in God. So I said: "Yes, but is there a force we don't know about?" He said: "Well, there may be. But if there is, we don't know about it."

At home, what do you tune in to?

Little Britain. They are taking new avenues in comedy and it works. And Gillette Soccer Saturday.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

I do think that The Business is doing the business at the moment. It's good and provocative. The Week also deserves our support.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

I don't think I'm the retiring sort of person, in either sense of the word. But my ambition is always to find the new frontier. I think it is now in internet and in audience participation.

If you didn't work in the media, what would you do?

I was offered a contract as a professional football player with Nottingham Forest before I went to Cambridge. I also taught for a year and found it really rewarding.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

John Freeman, whose fantastic series of interviews in the late 1950s, Face to Face, had a big effect on me.

The CV

1962-3: Hosts the ground-breaking satirical programme That Was the Week That Was.

1966-7: Fronts The Frost Report, a live comedy sketch-and-music show with John Cleese, and Ronnies Barker and Corbett. Also begins The Frost Programme, the first current affairs programme with a participating audience.

1969: Major American break with double Emmy award-winning The David Frost Show. Famous weekly transatlantic commute on Concorde.

1976-7: The Nixon Interviews, achieving the largest audience for a news interview.

1981: Joint founder and director of TV-am.

1984: Begins his Sunday morning routine with Frost on Sunday on TV-am. Hosts Through the Keyhole from 1987.

1993: Begins a 12-year stint on Breakfast with Frost, which will have aired 500 times when it finishes at the end of the month.

2005: Wins the Academy Fellowship at the Baftas. Begins a new BBC series, The Frost Interview, and joins up with Des Lynam on Sky for The World's Greatest Sporting Legend.

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