There's something queasy about Conrad Black appearing on prime-time TV

The media tycoon shouldn't have the platform of Have I Got News For You to defend himself

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The Independent Online

There used to be a well-established route by which famous people who had fallen from grace would re-assimilate themselves into society.

Expressions of humility, an admission of guilt, a period of introspection during which the gaze of the public would be averted, and maybe some charity work, or even a religious conversion.

Lord Black of Crossharbour, however, has chosen a different method to regain the pre-eminence he had before he was sent to the clink for three years for stealing his shareholders' money.

He has written a book about the terrible miscarriage of justice he has suffered, he has been interviewed by a succession of (female) journalists and, on Friday night, will appear on Have I Got News For You.

At a time when the BBC's reputation and integrity is under serious scrutiny, it is reasonable to ask whether it should be giving an opportunity for a convicted criminal to publicise his book, launder his reputation and earn a few quid.

It will make for good television: Messrs Hislop and Merton have been nasty about Conrad Black in his absence, so it will be interesting to see how far they go when confronted in person by a man who has a considerable physical presence. That's not to accuse them of ever failing in their duty to puncture pomposity – witness their demolition of Piers Morgan all those years ago – but Lord Black is a big beast, in every sense.

The disgraced, the defrocked and the denounced have all made their way through the HIGNFY studio on the road to redemption, and the man who was latterly Prisoner No. 18330-424 in the American correctional system claims that, given he has no reason to display any penitence, his only purpose in going on the show is to flog some books.

"I am totally flabbergasted at the absurdly over-scrutinised nature of this," he said at the weekend. "I'm only going on because I am trying to sell the book. I wouldn't cross the street to appear on it if I wasn't."

It is fair to say that Lord Black, the Canadian ex-jailbird who will be returning to his seat in the House of Lords at some stage next year, is unlikely be burdened by contrition during his performance. He is appealing against the two charges that remain on his record – 15 of the 17 counts have been overturned – and, judging by the pronouncements since he was liberated, he's not going to pull his punches.

He's called Rupert Murdoch "a psychopath", has warned his biographer Tom Bower that "he will take the fillings out of his teeth and the roof off his house" in a legal battle, and he's described the British press as "the lowest mutation of human life".

Let's just hope that, in the midst of one of his self-justificatory perorations, the HIGNFY producers haved cued up the CCTV film of His Lordship removing boxes of evidence from his office. I am as enthusiastic as anyone about rehabilitating a sinner who repents, but I can't help feeling queasy about this shamelessly manipulative attempt to play the public.

There's a fraud at the heart of it, in more ways then one.