Earl Spencer has expressed concern over the BBC pulling the plug on broadcasting a Panorama investigation into how its own reporter Martin Bashir secured an exclusive interview with his sister Diana, Princess of Wales.
The investigation by Panorama, which was scheduled to be broadcast tonight, is understood to be highly critical of Bashir. It was removed from the schedules over claims of a “duty of care” to Bashir.
The BBC is insistent that the programme has only been delayed although there are concerns it may never be aired.
Reacting to the news that the episode has been postponed, Earl Spencer wrote on Twitter: “Well there’s a surprise. What’s next? My guess: a rush by the BBC Director General to get Lord Dyson’s report out, before its expected publication date on Friday, so he can claim, with apparent regret: ‘Sadly this Panorama is now no longer relevant’.”
It is alleged that Bashir mocked up two faked bank statements to deceive the Earl into introducing him to Diana.
In the first major test of his leadership of the corporation, Tim Davie, the BBC director-general, ordered Panorama be taken off air ahead of the publication of a report into Bashir’s conduct and amid allegations of a BBC cover-up.
Bashir was working for Panorama in 1995 when he secured the scoop interview with the Princess of Wales in which she complained that “there were three of us in this marriage” in reference to Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.
The Panorama investigation, by John Ware, the veteran journalist, was commissioned by the BBC at the end of last year to effectively look into itself.
Distinct from the Panorama inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the interview and allegations of a subsequent cover-up, Mr Davie commissioned an independent investigation led by Lord Dyson, the former Master of the Rolls. He handed his report to Lord Davie last Friday evening.
The Telegraph understands that the director-general, on the same day, ordered that the Panorama programme be dropped.
Bashir, 58, told the BBC last month that he was resigning as its religion editor after undergoing a quadruple heart bypass operation last year and a further operation shortly after informing managers of his intention to quit.
However, Bashir has also been made aware of criticism being levelled at him by Lord Dyson, having been told in advance as part of the legal process prior to the report’s publication.
The BBC declined to comment.