Evening Standard Comment: If BBC is to keep our trust it must change

·2-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

It was the interview that enthralled a nation and a spectacular scoop for the BBC.

Yet 25 years on, an independent inquiry has now revealed the Panorama programme featuring Martin Bashir and Diana, Princess of Wales fell short of “high standards of integrity and transparency” over the “deceitful” manner in which falsified documents were used to secure the interview.

In the statement made by Prince William, he noted the interview was a significant contributing factor to the deterioration of his parents’ relationship, and hurt many others. Indeed, the actions of the BBC led to repercussions the royal family is still reeling from today.

The corporation’s self-professed top value is “trust”, proclaiming “we’re independent, impartial and honest”. Yet, as Lord Dyson’s report demonstrates — in using fake documents, making false claims about the royal family, an incompetent investigation into complaints about the programme and evasiveness in reaction to media questions — the corporation fell far short of those goals. It had multiple opportunities to address these issues and failed.

The BBC has serious questions to answer. The onus is on the new Chair and Director-General to prove they can put their house in order and demonstrate it can be trusted.

Its treatment of whistleblowers deserves particular attention. The removal of junior staff who raise concerns can only have a chilling effect on protection procedures. And why Bashir was employed and by whom as religious affairs correspondent in 2016, then editor, needs further clarity immediately.

William ended his statement with a recognition that, in an era of fake news, “public service broadcasting and a free press have never been more important”.

We, like the prince, believe the BBC is a crucial part of Britain, how we as citizens relate to one another and a way to promote our values of openness, tolerance and freedom abroad.

If it is to keep the nation’s trust, the BBC must prove it can truly change, and address the appalling failings revealed by Lord Dyson.

Read More

William and Harry condemn BBC over Martin Bashir’s ‘deceitful’ Panorama interview with Diana

Diana ‘was cast adrift after Panorama interview’ claims former private secretary

Revealed - letter Princess Diana sent Martin Bashir saying she had ‘no regrets’ over Panorama interview

BBC apologises to royal family and returns Bafta after Diana Panorama report

BBC covered up Bashir ‘deceit’ in securing Diana interview, report finds