Diana interview: BBC ‘will get chance to make changes itself,’ says government source

·4-min read
<p>An inquiry into a 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana found journalist Martin Bashir had used deception to get the scoop</p> (PA)

An inquiry into a 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana found journalist Martin Bashir had used deception to get the scoop

(PA)

The government will allow the BBC to make changes itself following Lord Dyson’s report into Princess Diana’s Panorama interview, it has been reported.

It comes as the inquiry into 1995 interview found that journalist Martin Bashir used deception to get the scoop.

The independent inquiry by Lord Dyson, a former senior judge, found Mr Bashir was unreliable and dishonest, and the BBC fell short of its high standards when answering questions about the interview.

Since the publication of the report, the BBC has faced intense scrutiny, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the broadcaster should make sure “nothing like this ever happens again” and ministers suggesting its governance might need reform.

According to Newsnight, ministers are interested in a proposal by the former BBC chairman Lord Grade to introduce a new independent editorial board that would report to the current management.

The idea could be introduced next year as part of a mid-term review of the BBC’s royal charter.

The Royal Charter is an arrangement with the government over what the BBC intends to do - including how it is funded. The current charter lasts until 2027.

However, Newsnight reports that the corporation will be given a chance to introduce the changes itself.

"The BBC may be able to do it themselves," said a government source.

It comes after Prince William and Prince Harry issued scathing statements regarding the report.

The Duke of Cambridge issued a scathing attack on the BBC after the report was releasedPA Wire
The Duke of Cambridge issued a scathing attack on the BBC after the report was releasedPA Wire

The Duke of Cambridge slammed the BBC, saying the interview had fuelled his mother’s “fear, paranoia and isolation” in the final years of her life and damaged her relationship with the Prince of Wales.

The Duke of Sussex also hit out at the corporation, saying: “The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life.”

During a visit to Portsmouth on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “obviously concerned” by the inquiry’s findings”, adding: “I can only imagine the feelings of the royal family and I hope very much that the BBC will be taking every possible step to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Current BBC director-general Tim Davie wrote to staff on Friday, saying lessons must be learnt and people across the BBC felt “deeply let down” by the contents of the 127-page document.

The Daily Mail reported that Diana’s brother Earl Spencer had urged Scotland Yard to investigate the BBC and initially wrote to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick in January.

The Metropolitan Police said in March it was “not appropriate” to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity, but has now said it is “assessing” the contents of Lord Dyson’s report in case it contains new evidence.

Former director of BBC News James Harding, who held the post when Bashir was rehired to the broadcaster in 2016, apologised on Friday and said responsibility for Bashir returning to the corporation “sits with me”.

Speaking to BBC News, he also sidestepped questions on whether former director-general Lord Hall had any role in the process.

In 2016, Bashir was rehired as the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent, before becoming religion editor.

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman Julian Knight said he was writing to Davie, who took up the role last year, to inquire why Bashir had been allowed to return.

He said: “In the wake of the Dyson report there are serious questions still left to answer. Namely, why was Martin Bashir rehired, with the BBC knowing what they knew? I am writing to the BBC’s director-general Tim Davie for urgent answers.

“I want to know how the BBC can reassure the committee that there could be no repeat of the serious failings that have been highlighted by the Dyson report. Now more than ever the BBC must show transparency and honesty in its response. We, the committee, will be discussing these issues when we meet in a private session.”

On Friday, former BBC executive Tim Suter, who was part of the 1996 internal investigation, stepped down from his current board role with media watchdog Ofcom in the wake of the report.

Mr Suter had previously been managing editor of weekly programmes in BBC News and current affairs.

Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: “By mutual agreement, Tim Suter, Ofcom board member and chair of Ofcom’s content board, is stepping down with immediate effect.

We would like to thank Tim for his contribution to Ofcom.”She also confirmed the watchdog would be entering discussions with the BBC “to ensure that this situation can never be repeated”.

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