David grew up in Nottinghamshire, England and first came to the United States as a High School exchange student. He attended the College of William and Mary having received the Drapers and Royal scholarships before joining the BBC as a member of the select graduate News Trainee program in 1977. His first assignment was as an assistant producer on the BBC’s flagship current affairs program Panorama. His work included an investigation into secret Irish Republican Army funding in America and former Nazi’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons in Argentina in the 1960’s. Promoted to full producer he joined the daily current affairs program NewsNight before being elevated to Senior Producer and reassigned to the BBC’s Washington bureau.
In Washington he was teamed with the BBC’s senior foreign correspondent Sir Charles Wheeler with whom he worked as producer for the next fifteen years. The pair covered the presidential elections of 1980, ‘84, ‘88 and ’92. In ’92 Charles received “reporter of the year” recognition from the Academy of Television Arts.
David reported extensively on the Reagan presidency taking him to almost every state in the Union as well as Cuba, Peru, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada and Attu at the end of the Aleutian chain. His BBC report on the effects of depleted uranium munitions, used by US forces during the Iraq War, was shown on all three American network news channels and in its entirety on ABC’s Nightline.
In 1992 David was asked by the BBC to produce his first documentary on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The film took him across America retracing the final year of King’s life. Along the way he met Rep. John Lewis, H. Rap Brown, Andy Young, and Rev. Joseph Lowry. It led to a new career as a documentary producer, selecting his own topics and producing films for BBC, Channel 4, History, PBS, Discovery, Smithsonian, and National Geographic.
His first commission was from Tony Hall, the head of BBC News who was about to become the Corporation’s Director General. He was asked to produce a five-part series looking back on Charles Wheeler’s career covering American politics since he arrived as bureau chief in 1965. They selected topics ranging from Vietnam, the war on drugs, and America’s retreat from its attempts to build a “Great Society.” Sir Charles and David conducted over fifty interviews including Richard Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson, Clark Clifford and Robert McNamara. The resulting series Wheeler on America was a Grierson nominated program.
As the series went out the LBJ library announced that they were beginning to release secretly recorded conversations Johnson made during his presidency. That resulted in the Peabody Award and Emmy award winning series, “The LBJ Tapes.” Films included:
- Crossing the Bridge, the march from Selma to Montgomery.
- The White House Tapes: Uncivil Liberties, Hoover’s campaign to destroy MLK.
- The Johnson Tapes: Into Vietnam, a film about the Gulf of Tonkin deception.
- In Eye of the Storm, examining how Vietnam destroyed LBJ.
- The Johnson Tapes: RFK vs LBJ, a look into the political rivalry between LBJ and Bobby Kennedy.
The History Channel then commissioned a series entitled A Presidency Revealed. Each film received multiple Emmy nominations and featured a four-hour profile of FDR, three hours on JFK and two hours on Richard Nixon. The channel then commissioned a film to go out after Reagan’s death. It included interviews with Nancy Reagan, Patty Davis, Ron Jr. Michael Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, James Baker, George HW Bush, George W. Bush, Michael Deaver, and Brian Mulroney.
David went on to develop themes that covered multiple topics, but in each case tried to break new ground. From the real story of “The Great Escape” that revealed for the first time that a secret unit, based at Fort Hunt Virginia, set up a clandestine network that reached into 63 POW camps inside Germany, to October Fury that reexamined the Cuban missile crisis from the perspective of four Soviet submarine captains.
The USMC granted unprecedented access to combat records gathered during the battle of Fallujah. With the help of Generals James Mattis and Richard Natonski the film Perfect Valor details the reality of that war through the eye of those in the fight. It was presented the service’s Norm Hatch Award by the Commandant and won Best Documentary Feature at the 2009 GI film festival in Washington.
Two CIA commissioned films followed including Extraordinary Fidelity, which presented the amazing case of two CIA officers shot down on a clandestine mission over Manchuria and held by the Chinese government for over twenty years. The film was eventually declassified and is posted on the agency website.
The documentary The Spy in the Hanoi Hilton came to be through a single sentence from a note sent to a Vietnam era POW that revealed a secret communications link connecting prisoners inside the Hanoi Hilton with the CIA and Naval Intelligence. It was a capability that led to a failed rescue mission that took the life of a Navy Seal and remained classified for the next 45 years. The resulting documentary presented details of the classified program and received the 2017 “Studies in Intelligence” award presented by the CIA director John Brennan.
David resides in just outside Washington, D.C. with his wife Sue and black lab Chloe. In his spare time he enjoys teaching his grandchildren chess, walks in the countryside, and volunteering with American Field Service (AFS), which is the program that first brought him to the US in 1971.