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Princess Diana: BBC apologises to Royal Family and hands back Bafta over ‘deceitful’ Bashir interview

Corporation told it fell short of ‘high standards of integrity and transparency’

Joe Middleton
Thursday 20 May 2021 18:31 BST
Mr Bashir broke BBC rules by mocking up fake bank statements and showing them to Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer
Mr Bashir broke BBC rules by mocking up fake bank statements and showing them to Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer (Nick Wass/Invision/AP)

The BBC has apologised to the Royal Family and handed back its Bafta after an official inquiry concluded that Martin Bashir used “deceitful behaviour” and was in “serious breach” of the corporation’s guidelines when he secured his Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

Mr Bashir broke BBC rules by mocking up fake bank statements and showing them to Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, to gain access to the princess for his explosive sit-down chat in 1995, the report said.

The investigation, led for former judge Lord Dyson, said that the corporation “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark.”

The BBC has sent personal apologies to the Prince of Wales, the dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, and Diana’s brother Earl Spencer and also handed back its Bafta it won for the interview in 1996.

The BBC said in a statement: “The 1995 Panorama interview received a number of awards at the time.

“We do not believe it is acceptable to retain these awards because of how the interview was obtained.”

The BBC’s director-general Tim Davie has said the corporation accepts “in full” the findings of Lord Dyson’s report.

The interview sent shockwaves through the monarchy at the time, with details about the state of Diana’s marriage to the Prince of Wales, with the princess famously saying: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

In a statement Mr Davie said: “I would like to thank Lord Dyson. His report into the circumstances around the 1995 interview is both thorough and comprehensive. The BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full.

“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.

Diana’s Panorama interview in 1995 sent shockwaves through the monarchy with details about the state of her marriage to the Prince of Wales (PA)

“While today’s BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way. 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.

“While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”

In response to Lord Dyson’s findings, Mr Bashir has apologised, saying the faking of bank statements was “an action I deeply regret” but added he felt it had “no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview”.

BBC chairman, Richard Sharp, said: “The BBC board welcomes the publication of Lord Dyson’s report which it unreservedly accepts. There were unacceptable failures.

“We take no comfort from the fact that these are historic. The BBCmust uphold the highest possible standards. I want to thank Lord Dyson for the thoroughness and diligence of his work.”

An internal investigation by the BBC into the matter in 1996 that was carried out by the former director general Tony Hall was “woefully ineffective,” the report added.

Lord Tony Hall has said he accepts the 1996 BBC inquiry into how Panorama secured its interview with Diana, Princess of Wales “fell well short of what was required” and he was “wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt”.

Mr Bashir, who was the BBC News religion editor, announced last week he was quitting the BBC on health grounds after falling seriously ill with Covid-19 related complications.

Additional reporting by PA

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