Trust in the BBC has been “eroded” by the scandal surrounding Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana, Princess of Wales and the corporation’s inadequate investigation into the matter, a former producer with the corporation has said.
Lord Dyson’s damning report into how the journalist secured the bombshell world exclusive and then how the BBC covered up his “deceitful behaviour” said the broadcaster “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark”.
Bashir was in “serious breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines when he faked bank statements and showed them to Diana’s brother Earl Spencer to gain access to the princess, the report said.
The Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex have expressed their fury at the BBC for its treatment of their mother, saying the interview fuelled her “fear, paranoia and isolation” and a wider “culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life”.
Former BBC Breakfast news journalist Andrew Carapiet, who was working in the newsroom the night the episode of Panorama aired, told the PA news agency: “At the time there was surprise a chap called Martin Bashir, who was really pretty unknown – I don’t think anybody had heard of him – had access to this and there were raised eyebrows.
“And then because it was such a success, everyone forgot about the raised eyebrows. It was such a success in the sense that it was amazing to get Princess Diana to say all these things against the royal family.
“It was an amazing scoop, it was better than the tabloids, everyone was patting themselves on the back.
“We weren’t aware that there was later on an investigation into what was going on.
“We certainly weren’t aware about these allegations about the bank statements, no idea. No idea about any of all of that. And it’s all coming out.”
Mr Carapiet, who is now director of media training consultancy Media Friendly, said the scandal will now prompt questions over whether this is “the tip of the iceberg.”
He said: “The two issues, I think, which emerge from this longer term are about public trust around the BBC’s news reporting.
“And secondly, is this the tip of the iceberg, are there more stories lurking beneath the surface, which we aren’t aware of?
“Somebody needs to ask the question. Is there anything else you need to tell us, which you’re not telling us?
“The BBC is a public service broadcaster, it’s independent and it has to maintain proper balance and due impartiality.
“All of this gets eroded by the stories around what Martin Bashir did or didn’t do, and whether it’s been properly investigated or not.”
Asked if the perception of the trustworthiness of the BBC has been compromised, he said: “I think it’s been eroded by this particular story.”
He also questioned the role Lord Tony Hall, the former director-general of the BBC, played in the decision to rehire Mr Bashir in 2016, first as religious affairs correspondent, before becoming religion editor.
Lord Hall led an internal investigation into the Diana interview in 1996, which Lord Dyson described as “woefully ineffective”.
Mr Carapiet said: “The job of religion editor is not the most prestigious, but it’s still a proper job at the BBC.
“And Tony Hall was almost certainly aware that this was going on.
“So I’m just asking the question. Somebody needs to ask Tony Hall or the BBC, why did they rehire somebody who had been previously investigated for possible unethical practices in how he managed to get access to Princess Diana.”
Lord Hall has apologised for his role in the investigation and said: “I was wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt, basing that judgment as I did on what appeared to be deep remorse on his part.”
A BBC spokeswoman said: “Trust is the cornerstone of everything we do. We must uphold the highest possible standards and that is what we will do.”