Martin Bashir scandal: MPs now wants answers - and launch inquiry into BBC handling of Diana interview

·4-min read

MPs have announced they are to hold an inquiry into the handling of the BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales - as the corporation says it will review its editorial policies.

The BBC Board concluded "audiences had a right to expect better" following its investigation into the famous 1995 Martin Bashir interview.

The inquiry by Lord Dyson had concluded Bashir used "deceitful behaviour" to land the world exclusive and that an internal BBC probe a year later had covered it up.

And now, MPs are also demanding their own answers.

Following a private meeting of the DCMS committee on Monday, chair Julian Knight announced it would hold an official session to examine questions raised by Lord Dyson's report.

The session, which is expected to be held in June, will consider wider issues such as whether there has been evidence of change in how the BBC has operated since the Panorama interview.

It will also look in depth at the corporation's own internal investigation and invite senior BBC management to give evidence.

Following the publication of the report, Bashir apologised to Princes Harry and William - but stopped short of admitting that he duped Diana into the Panorama interview.

Mr Knight said: "We believe the BBC has further questions to answer following last week's report by Lord Dyson and further speculation in the media over the weekend, including views expressed by Martin Bashir himself.

"We want to speak to those who were involved at the time and in the years that followed the screening of this programme which continues to create headlines more than 25 years on.

"Scrutiny of the BBC has never come at a more critical time for the broadcaster and we will play our part in this in order to examine events and processes, crucial to retaining audiences' trust in the BBC."

In a statement, the BBC Board has now responded to the independent investigation, admitting failures and saying it hopes to ensure the "mistakes of the past" are not repeated following a "profoundly sobering period for us all".

"We accepted Lord Dyson's findings in full and reiterate the apology we have offered to all those affected by the failings identified," the statement said.

"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."

The review will be undertaken by a group of non-executive board directors, led by Sir Nick Serota, senior independent director of the BBC, and supported by Ian Hargreaves and Sir Robbie Gibb, non-executive members of the corporation's editorial guidelines and standards committee.

It will look at "oversight of editorial practices", the culture of the BBC, and assess the "robustness and independence of whistleblowing processes", and report to the BBC Board in September. The review will also identify "lessons to be learned" from the Dyson inquiry.

The board added: "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."

It emerged on Saturday that Diana's brother Earl Spencer has written to the Metropolitan Police chief to ask the force to look again at the circumstances surrounding the interview.

The force has said it will study the findings to assess whether the report contains any "significant new evidence".

Lord Dyson said Bashir was in "serious breach" of the BBC's producer guidelines when he faked bank statements and showed them to Earl Spencer to gain access to the princess.

Former BBC director-general Lord Hall, who was heavily criticised in the report for his botched inquiry into how the interview was obtained, has since resigned as chairman of the National Gallery, saying continuing in the role "would be a distraction to an institution I care deeply about".

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