‘Deceived and induced’: inquiry reveals how Martin Bashir landed Princess Diana interview
BBC said to be facing its ‘phone hacking moment’ as Dyson report is published
The BBC has apologised for “clear failings” in how journalist Martin Bashir secured his bombshell Panorama interview with Princess Diana.
The 1995 world exclusive, in which the Princess of Wales claimed there were “three of us in this marriage”, was watched by 22.8 million people - a record for a factual programme at the time.
But 26 years later, an investigation by former senior judge Lord John Dyson has found that Bashir used “deceitful” methods to land the candid interview, in breach of BBC editorial rules, The Telegraph reports.
A source told the newspaper that the corporation was facing its “phone hacking moment”, referring to the scandal that rocked the News of the World in 2011.
Former Master of the Rolls Dyson concluded that Bashir “deceived and induced” Diana’s brother Earl Charles Spencer using mocked up bank statements to win over his trust and secure an introduction to the princess. “By gaining access to Princess Diana in this way, Mr Bashir was able to persuade her to agree to give the interview,” he said.
Spencer has previously accused Bashir of forging statements that suggested two senior courtiers were selling information about his sister, as a means to persuade her to publicly speak out.
“This behaviour was in serious breach of the 1993 edition of the BBC’s Producer Guidelines on straight dealing,” said the report.
The revelation that Bashir forged the bank statements “is not new”, says The Independent. He admitted preparing the statements to an internal BBC inquiry in 1996 that was led by Tony Hall, then managing director of news and current affairs. However, he was cleared of any wrongdoing at the time.
Dyson called this inquiry “woefully ineffective” and said Hall, who went on to become the BBC’s general director, “could not reasonably have concluded, as he did, that Mr Bashir was an honest and honourable man”.
‘A stupid thing to do’
Bashir has apologised, saying that faking bank statements was “a stupid thing to do” and “an action I deeply regret” but added that he felt it had “no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview”. He pointed to a handwritten note from the Princess of Wales given to the inquiry as confirmation of this and said he “will always remain immensely proud of that interview”.
Bashir resigned from the corporation last week, citing health reasons after having had a quadruple heart bypass and suffering Covid-related complications.
Meanwhile, Hall admitted that the 1996 investigation “fell well short of what was required” and said he was “wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt”.
Tim Davie, the BBC’s current director general, also issued a “full and unconditional apology” and acknowledged that Dyson had “identified clear failings”.