BBC: Princess Diana interview investigation discussed by Bell
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The Princess of Wales participated in the landmark interview with Mr Bashir in November 1995, where she famously said “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”. An independent investigation into how the BBC journalist procured the interview has found Mr Bashir is guilty of deceit. It has also found the BBC fell short of the high standards of integrity and transarency.
Lord Dyson, the former master of the rolls and head of civil justice, was appointed to look into the circumstances surrounding the interview.
He has been considering if the steps taken by the BBC and Mr Bashir were appropriate and to what extent those actions influenced Diana’s decision to give an interview.
The report, published at 2pm today, concluded the journalist employed deceitful methods in securing the interview, in breach of BBC editorial rules.
Former director-general Lord Tony Hall has said he accepts the 1996 BBC inquiry into how Panorama secured its interview with Diana, Princess of Wales “fell well short of what was required” and he was “wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt”.
It comes after allegations Mr Bashir mocked up fake bank statements and showed them to Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, to gain exclusive access to the royal.
BBC Directory General Tim Davie has responded to the report and said in a statement: “I would like to thank Lord Dyson. His report into the circumstances around the 1995 interview is both thorough and comprehensive. The BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full.
“Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings.
“While today’s BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way. The BBC should have made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew.
“While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”
Lord Birt, director-general of the BBC at the time of the interview, described Mr Bashir as a “rogue reporter” and accused him of fabricating evidence.
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He said in a statement: “We now know that the BBC harboured a rogue reporter on Panorama who fabricated an elaborate, detailed but wholly false account of his dealings with Earl Spencer and Princess Diana.
“This is a shocking blot on the BBC’s enduring commitment to honest journalism; and it is a matter of the greatest regret that it has taken 25 years for the full truth to emerge.
“As the director-general at the time, I offer my deep apologies to Earl Spencer and to all others affected.”
It is not yet known whether the BBC will face criminal prosecution.
But Andrew Pierce, a journalist at the Daily Mail, has called for the corporation to be prosecuted, on par with those found guilty of phone hacking.
He wrote on Twitter: “Independent report into Martin Bashir duping Princess Diana into landmark BBC Panorama interview says he’s guilty of deceit.
“If law broken he should be prosecuted like phone hacking reporters. BBC gave those prosecutions blanket coverage.”
Commentator Dan Wootton said the damning report has come 20 years too late.
He wrote on Twitter: “A day of shame for the BBC as it finally says it is “very sorry” for the circumstances in which Martin Bashir procured Panorama interview with Princess Diana. Prince William and Harry are rightfully furious about what went on. Many will say this apology is two decades too late.”
The outcome of the investigation was first reported by the Daily Telegraph, ahead of the official publication of the report this afternoon.
Richard Ayre, the BBC’s controller of editorial policy in 1995, told the newspaper he had informed Lord Dyson in evidence that Mr Bashir would have breached guidelines in mocking up the statements and showing them to Earl Spencer.
He said: “The use of deceit in making factual programmes would have been permissible only in the case of investigating serious crime… and where prima facie evidence of the guilt of that person being investigated had already been obtained.
“Those circumstances clearly don’t apply to an interview with the Princess of Wales.”
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The independent investigation was launched after Earl Spencer alleged Mr Bashir had shown him fake financial documents relating to his sister’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson, and another former royal household member.
He also alleged the journalist had told outlandish and untrue stories about the Royal Family to gain access to the Princess.
The Panorama programme marked the first-ever solo interview for the Princess of Wales.
The interview was controversial as Diana divulged lots of personal information, discussing the couple’s adultery, the future of the monarchy and her mental and physical health.
When discussing her husband’s relations with Camilla Parker Bowles, she famously told Mr Bashir: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
Diana also admitted to having affairs herself.
The interview proved to be the tipping point for Charles and Diana to get divorced, having been separated for three years when the interview first broadcast.
Less a month after the programme aired, Buckingham Palace announced the Queen had sent letters to the Prince and Princess of Wales, advising them to divorce.
Mr Bashir, who was the BBC News religion editor, left the corporation last week on health grounds.
He has been seriously unwell with COVID-19-related complications.
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