BBC ‘fell below standards’ over Princess Diana interview, finds inquiry
London: An independent inquiry has revealed that the BBC “fell below its high standards of integrity and transparency” over the 1995 interview with the late Princess Diana.
The inquiry revealed on Thursday that former BBC reporter Martin Bashir had acted in a “deceitful” way and faked documents to obtain the interview while the broadcaster’s own internal probe in 1996 into what happened was “woefully ineffective”, Xinhua news agency.
The independent inquiry, by retired judge Lord Dyson, was commissioned by the broadcaster last year, after Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer went public with allegations about how the interview was obtained.
It found Bashir mocked up fake bank statements that falsely suggested individuals were being paid for keeping the Princess, who died in a car crash in France 1997, under surveillance.
He later showed the fake documents to Spencer, to gain his trust in order to gain access to the Princess of Wales and persuade her to agree to give the interview.
The BBC carried out its own investigation into the issue in 1996, but it “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency”, according to the inquiry.
In response to the findings, the British broadcaster sent written apologies to Princes William and Harry, as well as the Prince of Wales Charles and Spencer.
The BBC’s incumbent Director-General, Tim 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.”
He added that the BBC should have “made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew”.
In a letter sent by Davie to Prince Charles, the Director-General apologised for Bashir’s “lurid and untrue claims” and accepts that the veteran journalist made the claims “intending to play on the Princess’s fears, in order to arouse her interest in him, and without concern for the impact on those he maligned”.
According to the the BBC, this was the first time a serving British Royal had spoken openly about her life, including her “unhappy marriage” to Prince Charles, their affairs and her bulimia.
Responding to the inquiry findings, Prince William said he was “most saddened” that his mother never learned she had been deceived, adding that she was failed “not just by a rogue reporter” but also by “BBC bosses”.
In a separate statement, his brother Harry said that the “ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices” ultimately took his mother’s life.
“Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life,” the Duke of Sussex added.
Bashir, who is one of the UK’s best known journalists and had also made headlines for his 2003 interview with the late pop star Michael Jackson, has stepped down from his role as the BBC’s religion editor, the corporation confirmed last week.