Key figures and topics behind the Diana Panorama interview

·4-min read
Princess Panorama (PA Archive)
Princess Panorama (PA Archive)

The interview with Diana, Princess of Wales on Panorama is once again making headlines, ahead of the publication of Lord Dyson’s report.

Here, the key people and issues are examined:

Earl Spencer

Diana’s younger brother, Earl Spencer has defended the memory and legacy of his sister since her death in a Paris car crash in 1997.

In his funeral eulogy, Charles Spencer told mourners the princess was “the most hunted person of the modern age”.

And he pledged that Diana’s “blood family” would do all they could to steer her two sons so that they were “not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned”.

Charles provided introductions between Diana and the then BBC Panorama reporter Martin Bashir

PA Archive
PA Archive

Allegations made by Earl Spencer

Diana’s brother has made a string of allegations about the circumstances leading up to her now infamous Panorama interview in 1995, in which she sent shockwaves through the monarchy with details about the state of her marriage to the Prince of Wales.

Earl Spencer claims that in the weeks before the programme, Bashir showed him “false bank statements” that related to alleged payments made to two members of the royal household by the security services.

The documents falsely suggested the individuals were being paid for keeping the princess under surveillance.

Diana’s brother alleges these papers were far more important than other mocked-up documents, relating to a former employee of the earl, that Bashir also used as he tried to gain access to the princess.

The earl also alleges that Bashir made a series of claims about the royal family and that he kept contemporaneous notes of their meetings.

Martin Bashir

Bashir rose to prominence after his interview with Diana and later his documentary about global superstar Michael Jackson.

The BBC has said in a statement that Bashir admitted commissioning mocked-up bank documents, which related to the former Spencer employee, during the corporation’s internal investigation.

PA Archive
PA Archive

The reporter had asked graphic designer Matt Wiessler to make the documents.

This month, Bashir quit the BBC and stepped down as religion editor on health grounds, after falling seriously ill with Covid-related complications.

Lord Hall

Former BBC director-general Lord Hall was director of BBC news and current affairs when the Diana interview was screened.

He led the corporation’s internal investigation into whether Diana had been misled.

The earl has claimed in a letter to the BBC that the 1996 inquiry was a “whitewash” and has gone on to allege the corporation covered up the actions of Bashir.

Lord Hall has told The Times newspaper he was “unaware” of the documents at the centre of the new claims.

Lord Hall, who left the BBC in 2020, said in a statement to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “the focus of the original investigation was whether Diana had been misled”.

He said “this and any new issues raised will no doubt be looked at by the BBC’s new inquiry”.

Matt Wiessler

Graphic designer Matt Wiessler was commissioned by Bashir to create the mocked-up financial documents relating to the earl’s then employee, who no longer works for the earl.

He believes he was made a “scapegoat” by the BBC for the reporter’s actions and wants an apology. He told his story in a two-part ITV documentary.

Following the 1996 inquiry, the BBC’s board of governors was told there had been “steps to ensure that the graphic designer will not work for the BBC again”.

Mr Wiessler told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was “absolutely gobsmacked” to discover that “a board of governors meeting… to look into what Martin had done” had made him “the scapegoat”.

PA Media
PA Media

Steve Hewlett

The veteran presenter and journalist, who died in 2017 aged 58, was Panorama’s editor when the interview with Diana broadcast in 1995 and is reported to have been involved in meetings with her.

His other credits included working as the director of programmes at Carlton TV – now Channel 4 – as well as producing programmes such as Diverse Reports, Second World War in Colour and an award-winning 1991 BBC documentary from the Maze prison.

Hewlett joined BBC Radio 4’s current affairs programme The Media Show when it launched in 2008, and he was a prolific columnist for The Guardian.

In February 2017, he died of oesophageal cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

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