Born: January 15, 1933;

Died: October 21, 2020.

FRANK Bough, who has died aged 87, was, during the 1970s and most of the 1980s, one of the most popular, capable and ubiquitous figures on British television. He was for much of that time chief presenter of Grandstand, BBC One’s Saturday afternoon flagship sports programme, but he also presented the early evening magazine show Nationwide; later, he was successfully to launch the BBC’s breakfast television service.

Bough was an unaffected and apparently unflappable presence in front of the camera; he was a competent interviewer, had a relaxed and reassuring manner and seemed able to turn his hand to any aspect of broadcasting. Michael Parkinson once remarked that, if his life were to depend on the smooth running of a television programme, Bough would be the man he’d want in charge.

This unthreatening, avuncular persona meant that it came as all the more of a shock when, in 1988, Bough was the subject of a News of the World exposé, in which he admitted taking cocaine while attending sex parties in ladies’ underwear.

Despite his contrition for “a brief but appalling period in my life”, his career never really recovered. The BBC sacked him from his role, which was at the time presenting the Holiday programme; a few years later, he briefly presented ITV’s rugby coverage, but that, too, ended after further newspaper coverage in 1992, this time by the Sunday Mirror documenting bondage sessions with a dominatrix.

Though, as Bough pointed out, “no-one suffered but my wife, my family and myself”, his career and reputation both suffered. With some justice, Bough felt that, after the first lurid revelations, the tabloids had him down as a marked man, complaining that one newspaper had been following him day and night “for seven years, waiting for me to trip up”.

Francis Joseph Bough was born on January 15, 1933, at Stoke-on-Trent, where his father was an upholsterer and his mother worked in a pottery. After his father lost his job, the family relocated to Oswestry in Shropshire, where Frank attended the Boys’ High School and became a champion sprinter.

Though not particularly academic, he secured a place at Merton College, Oxford, to read History, where he also gained a Blue for football.

His national service was with the Royal Tank Regiment and then, in 1957, he joined ICI as a management trainee in County Durham; for years, however, he bombarded the BBC with letters looking for work. Eventually, in 1962, the corporation took him on as a presenter of the North East’s regional programme, Home at Six, which was later renamed Look North.

From 1964 until 1967, he presented Sportsview, a midweek programme focusing on football; it was renamed Sportsnight after David Coleman took over as presenter in 1968. An early highlight of Bough’s career came when he covered the 1966 World Cup match in which North Korea scored a surprise win over Italy.

Bough then moved on to host Grandstand. The large number of live feeds and location pieces gave plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong; Bough’s relaxed style and ability to remain calm under pressure were invaluable, as were his sporting knowledge and breadth of interests. He was to remain in charge of the show until 1982, gaining a reputation as the safest pair of hands in the business. He had a particularly testing time during his coverage of the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which the events were disrupted by a terrorist attack in which 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed by members of the Palestinian group, Black September.

To his sports broadcasting, Bough added a role as presenter of Nationwide, a magazine programme following the news, which was broadcast from London, but incorporated regional programmes, including his old stamping ground of Look North. Almost anything, from interviews with politicians to human interest stories, might cross his desk; Bough coped with all of it with aplomb.

In 1977, he was one of a range of BBC presenters who featured on Morecambe and Wise’s Christmas special, singing ‘There is Nothing Like a Dame’ in a sailor suit. The programme was watched by 21 million, a long-standing record. In 1979, he was one of the anchors of the BBC’s general election coverage.

In 1983, the BBC was galvanised by the impending launch of TV-am on ITV into setting up its own breakfast television programme; Bough moved over from Nationwide to helm the show, alongside Nick Ross and Selina Scott. In 1987, fed up with the early starts, he moved across to Holiday, but he was not long in the job before the News of the World’s expose ended his relationship with the BBC.

From 1989-92, he was the presenter of LWT’s 6 o’clock Live and also did some presenting on Sky TV; from 1992-1996, he had a show on LBC Radio and from 1996 briefly worked for Travel Live on the Travel Channel. After that, however, he retired and declined most opportunities to return to the airwaves; he refused to take part in a programme marking breakfast television’s 25th anniversary, though he contributed to a documentary about it five years later.

He married, in 1959, Nesta Howells; she survives him, with their three sons.