MP questions links between Frost and Birt

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The Independent Online
AN MP last night called for an explanation of any links between David Frost, the television presenter, and John Birt, deputy director-general of the BBC, after the announcement that the Frost On Sunday TV-am programme was to move to BBC 1 next


The MP alleged in a Commons motion that a 1970 Granada World in Action expose of David Frost's business dealings was suppressed after Mr Frost broke down and wept in a New York interview with Mr Birt, who is to become Director General of the BBC next year. The motion said that without an explanation of the circumstances in which the programme was dropped, 'persistent doubts will remain concerning his suitability for the most vital post in this country in public service broadcasting'.

The motion, tabled by Rhodri Morgan, Labour MP for Cardiff West, urged Mr Birt and Mr Frost 'to explain how in November 1970 a Granada World in Action programme planned as an expose of David Frost's Paradine Productions business dealings and including an interview by Mr Birt of Mr Frost at the Algonquin Hotel, Manhattan, in which Mr Frost broke down and cried when Mr Birt put allegations to him, was never shown'.

It then called on Mr Birt 'to explain any causative link between the decision by Granada's World in Action to pull the above programme and his appointment and promotion shortly thereafter to the post of producer of the Frost Programme'.

The motion noted 'allegations that in the light of Mr Birt's subsequent ascent of the television career ladder at London Weekend Television, at Weekend World, then Head of Current Affairs, as co-producer with David Frost in 1977 of the Nixon Interviews, Controller of Features and Current Affairs, and Director of Programmes, Mr Frost's patronage as one of the founders of London Weekend Television was critical to his advancement'.

Mr Birt was not available for comment last night.

In the deal announced yesterday Mr Frost's programme will go out between 8.15am and 9.15am on BBC 1, and be repeated on Sky News at about 9.30am, carrying the BBC's logo, writes Maggie Brown. Under a special exemption Mr Frost will be able to earn an extra fee from BSkyB rather than the BBC gaining extra income itself. It is the first time a star BBC performer has been able to negotiate such a deal.

It also underlines the increasing co-operation between the BBC and the BSkyB satellite service, which has already attracted heavy criticism from ITV.

The BBC is paying Mr Frost about pounds 2,000 for each programme, a quarter of the TV- am fee. Frost on Sunday, which ended its nine-year run last Sunday, was one of the more serious and well-regarded programmes on the breakfast franchise, which was lost to a higher bid from Good Morning Television last October.

Channel 5 bid dropped, page 22