Princes William and Harry blast ‘culture of exploitation’ after BBC Bashir report
Panorama interview contributed to our mother’s ‘fear and paranoia’, says Duke of Cambridge
BBC “lies” fuelled Princess Diana’s “fears and paranoia” in the final years of her life, Prince William has claimed following the release of a damning report on the methods used to obtain the infamous Panorama interview with his late mother.
Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview was a “major” contributing factor in making his parent’s relationship “worse”, the Duke of Cambridge said in a broadcast statement to the BBC’s rival ITV News. “It effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialised by the BBC and others,” William added.
The royal rebuke is “unprecedented”, says The Times, and piles further pressure on the national broadcaster after Lord John Dyson’s inquiry found that Bashir “deceived” Diana’s brother, Earl Charles Spencer, to secure an introduction to her.
The independent investigation by retired judge Dyson concluded that the journalist breached BBC rules by using fake bank statements that suggested a member of Spencer’s staff was leaking stories to the press, in order to gain his trust.
Yet an internal BBC inquiry in 1996 cleared Bashir of any wrongdoing.
Around 23 million people worldwide tuned in to watch his world-exclusive interview with Diana, during which she revealed intimate details of her life including her struggles with bulimia and self-harm.
Prince William argues that the “deceitful” methods of “BBC employees” who “lied and used fake documents” to secure the interview “substantially influenced what my mother said”.
The Royal described his “indescribable sadness” over how “the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation, that I remember from her final years with her”, adding: “What saddens me most is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she’d been deceived.”
Prince Harry has also spoken out about his mother following the publication of Dyson’s report. In a separate statement, the Duke of Sussex said that the “ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life”.
Unethical practices in the media “are still widespread today”, he continued, warning that the problem was “bigger than one outlet, one network or one publication”.
“Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed,” Harry concluded. “By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life.”
BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond notes that while, in the past, “it's been Harry that's been so angry” with the media, the “visceral attack” on the BBC by William is “a sign of his deep hurt and deep dismay”.
The brothers' onslaughts and “absolutely blistering” tone of the Dyson report have left the BBC “severely injured and probably scarred”, the broadcaster’s media editor Amol Rajan told BBC News at Ten yesterday.
And with widespread anger among the public and cabinet ministers too, the BBC is in a “dreadful place”, he added.
Indeed, the cost of the scandal to Auntie is “incalculable”, writes Andrew Neil, former host of several flagship BBC programmes and chair of the soon-to-launch GB News, in an article for the Daily Mail. Having “scaled the moral high ground” during the tabloid phone-hackings scandal while “drawing a veil over its own cesspit”, the BBC is now paying the price, says Neil.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said last night that in the wake of the “damning” inquiry findings, the government would consider whether the BBC’s governance should be reformed.
Meanwhile, BBC Director-General Tim Davie said that while Dyson’s report states the Diana “was keen on the idea of an interview” with the broadcaster, the “process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect”.