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The sad day of Frank Bough's downfall. By Will Wyatt

Blog | By Will Wyatt | Nov 03, 2020

BBC Television Centre by Martin Leng

“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing. It’s like people gathering at the scene of an accident.” So reported Patricia Houlihan, producer of the popular early evening Holiday programme, when I spoke to her the morning after Frank Bough had been clobbered by the News of the World. The Sunday paper had accused him of taking drugs and attending sex parties. There was more to come the following week.

Frank was the cosy, avuncular face of Holiday advising on family holidays and with his wife, Nesta, pottering round France and Italy showing us where we might like to go. I was head of the department which made the programme and spoke to my boss, managing director Paul Fox, and Jonathan Powell, the controller of BBC1. I thought viewers could not be expected to take advice as to where they should take their children in the summer from someone they knew watched people having sex on the carpets of suburban living rooms. We agreed that he would have to come off the programme. I would break the news to him.

Frank was lying low. I reached him through his friend and chosen emissary, the television reporter Bernard Falk. I said that I needed to see Frank face to face. Reporters were besieging both his house and Television Centre so I booked a room in a hotel in Holland Park as our rendezvous. In the phone calls for these arrangements Falk displayed the warm brotherhood of television camaraderie by making it clear that should it be that Frank were no longer to present Holiday, he, Falk, would be free and only too willing to take his place.

Frank arrived a little late and a bit flushed for our meeting wearing one of his brown patterned V-necked jumpers. He looked thinner, strained and red-eyed. I offered him a glass of wine or water. He chose water. He had decided to take the initiative and shape the conversation. “A few years ago we had a big problem in our family and that problem was me.” In the weeks before the story ran, they had sorted it out. He was not going to sue as he had admitted some things, but there was a deal: no writ, nothing more in the paper, “that’s if you can believe anything they say.”

I told Frank of our decision. “You’re making a grave mistake,” he said, “ I’ve had letters from viewers asking me to stay ... Tomorrow, I’m opening a fete for a vicar… I’ve just received a letter from royalty asking for my support for a charity… You are the only ones turning away.” I replied that his friendly chap next-door style made it impossible for him to continue for the moment.

He paused, “It will be another big press story just when I am beginning to see some light.” I said we would seek to mitigate that. “You can issue a statement, if you like, and we’ll agree with it.” The argument went on for a bit. Frank looked me hard and accusingly in the eye but I sensed that he was not fighting as fiercely as he could or, indeed, as I had expected him to. I left him to phone his wife in private and said I was going now to see the Holiday team. “Give them my love,” he called as I moved to the door.

Falk rang me the following morning to agree the statement and offered his thoughts on his friend. “He’s behaved like a child. He’s not a journalist, just a television front man and has ruined his whole career.” Then I really did feel sorry for Frank.

Desmond Lynam took over on Holiday.