Martin Bashir Diana scandal: BBC announces review into the effectiveness of its ‘editorial policies and governance’

·5-min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

The BBC will launch a review into the effectiveness of its "editorial policies and governance" following Lord Dyson's report into Martin Bashir’s Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales, its board has said.

It comes after an independent review found that Bashir used deceit to secure the blockbuster 1995 interview with Diana and mounting pressure on the BBC to announce reform.

The BBC board released a statement on Monday, saying: “We must not just assume that mistakes of the past cannot be repeated today - we must make sure that this is the case.”

It said: "As members of the BBC board we were, like so many others, concerned by the findings in Lord Dyson's report into the 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

"We accepted Lord Dyson's findings in full and reiterate the apology we have offered to all those affected by the failings identified. We recognise the impact that the events it describes has had on so many people, not least those whose lives were personally affected by what happened. We also acknowledge that audiences had a right to expect better from the BBC.

"As a board we believe that the BBC is a different organisation today, with different and stronger governance, as well as improved processes. Nevertheless, Lord Dyson's report speaks to historic failings of oversight and these should be reflected upon. We must not just assume that mistakes of the past cannot be repeated today - we must make sure that this is the case.

"We have confidence that the processes and guidelines in today's BBC are much stronger than they were in 1995, but we know we must also do what we can to prevent such an incident happening again. As such, we think it is right that we review the effectiveness of the BBC's editorial policies and governance in detail."

"In doing this, the board will hold the Executive to account to ensure there are strong day to day editorial processes and a clear route by which to handle any specific issues arising from Lord Dyson's report. The board will look at the culture of the BBC as part of its remit to assess the effectiveness of policies and practice.”

The BBC was under fresh pressure today to reform in the wake of the scandal as a former Ofcom chief accused the corporation of “letting the public down”.

Dame Patricia Hodgson said there had to be more “independence” in its complaints procedures.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has also accused the corporation of adopting a “we know best” attitude.

Former chair of watchdog Ofcom Dame Patricia told LBC on Monday: “Lord Dyson’s report has given us really detailed insights into the affair. Clearly BBC executives were letting the Royal Family down, people who worked for the Royal Family, the British public down and their own colleagues because the true facts were kept from the board of governors and the board of management. I think there are two things to be done: one is obviously much more independence in the matter of complaints and receiving of complaints and editorial review.”

She said there were “lessons” to make the BBC a little more responsive to pressure.

In his report, Lord Dyson said Bashir used “deceitful conduct” to obtain the 1995 interview with Diana, which was then covered up by a “woefully ineffective” internal investigation.

Outlining more details of its review on Monday, the BBC board said in its statement: “This work will be undertaken by a group of non-executive board directors led by Sir Nick Serota, the BBC’s senior independent director, and supported by Ian Hargreaves and Sir Robbie Gibb, non-executive members of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines and Standards Committee. It will report to the board by September.

“Their work will focus on oversight of the BBC’s editorial practices and will consider in detail the robustness and independence of whistleblowing processes in editorial areas. This will include communicating with internal and external stakeholders and taking expert independent advice on the BBC’s approach. Their work will moreover identify the lessons to be learned from Lord Dyson’s review which may be relevant today.

“The BBC will, of course, also participate fully in the next formal review of BBC governance, as set out in our royal charter.

“This has been a profoundly sobering period for us all. The board of the BBC has absolute faith that the mission and purposes of the BBC endure. We must strive to reinforce confidence in our world-class journalism and prove that we deserve the trust of all our audiences.”

Secretary of State Mr Dowden said the scandal had exposed “failures that strike at the heart of our national broadcaster’s values and culture”.

Writing in The Times, he said far-reaching change was needed to ensure the corporation was in tune with “all parts of the nation it serves”.

Mr Dowden said the BBC needed “to improve its culture to ensure this never happens again and that means a new emphasis on accuracy, impartiality and diversity of opinion”. His warning came after Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to rule out the prospect of criminal prosecutions.

She told Sky News: “If there is subsequent action that needs to be taken, then clearly... that will follow.”

Mr Dowden also indicated there were “fundamental questions” about the future of the licence fee beyond 2027 as it competes with US streaming giants.

He suggested the only way the BBC could justify its funding model was by providing distinctively British programmes. Bashir said in an interview with the Sunday Times: “I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don’t believe we did.”

In the fallout from the Dyson report, former BBC director general Lord Hall — who, as head of news and current affairs, carried out the 1996 internal investigation into the way the Diana interview was obtained — quit as chairman of the National Gallery.

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