BBC under fire after inquiry finds reporter was ‘deceitful’ in securing Diana interview

BBC under fire after inquiry finds reporter was ‘deceitful’ in securing Diana interview
Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1995 smiles at the United Cerebral Palsy's annual dinner at the New York Hilton. An investigation found that a BBC journalist used deception to secure an explosive interview with Princess Diana. (AP)
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Updated 20 May 2021

BBC under fire after inquiry finds reporter was ‘deceitful’ in securing Diana interview

BBC under fire after inquiry finds reporter was ‘deceitful’ in securing Diana interview
  • BBC set up the investigation in November from Diana's brother alleging he had been tricked into introducing her to journalist Martin Bashir
  • Broadcaster agrees to return awards won by the interview

LONDON: Reports emerged this afternoon that an official inquiry found that former BBC reporter Martin Bashir had commissioned fake bank statements and used “deceitful behaviour” in a “serious breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines to secure his 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales. 

The findings of the report indicate that Bashir lied both to the princess, and to her brother Earl Spencer, in his attempts to secure the interview. He reportedly showed Earl Spencer forged bank statements that appeared to show payments by the media to associates of the family for information. 

This, Earl Spencer says, was to gain his confidence so that he would introduce Martin Bashir to his sister, Princess Diana. 

The investigation, conducted by the former supreme court judge Lord Dyson, found that the BBC did not uphold its hallmark standards of integrity and transparency and Bashir had committed a “serious breach” of BBC guidelines. 

In 1996, Tony Hall, the then-head of BBC, carried out an investigation of the interview. However, Dyson was reportedly highly critical of the probe, calling it “flawed and woefully ineffective.”

In response to the report findings, Bashir apologized and said the faking of bank statements was a “stupid thing to do” and “an action I deeply regret.” But, he added he felt it had “no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview.”

The current BBC Director General Tim Davie has made a “full and unconditional” apology after the findings in Dyson’s report were released this afternoon.

Davie said: “Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings.”

The 1995 Panorama interview made Bashir a star after an audience of almost 23 million tuned in to hear Princess Diana reveal details of her life and make the famous comment that there were “three of us in this marriage,” in reference to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

The BBC, which revealed that the six-month report cost around £1.4 million ($1.9 million), said it would return the many awards that Bashir’s interview won.