Martin Bashir: Who is the BBC journalist at the centre of the Princess Diana interview scandal?

Veteran TV presenter known for sit-downs with prominent public figures, notably Michael Jackson

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 21 May 2021 10:58
<p>Martin Bashir</p>

Martin Bashir

An internal BBC investigation has concluded that veteran journalist Martin Bashir used “deceitful” methods to secure his famous Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995.

Lord Dyson’s inquiry concluded that the TV journalist, who recently stepped down from the corporation due to ill health, was in “serious breach” of its guidelines when he presented fake bank statements relating to members of the royal household to Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, in order to win his confidence and secure the interview.

Mr Bashir has apologised and said he “deeply regrets” the subterfuge, but denied that it had any bearing on the princess’s decision to take part in the film, which he says she was eager to do.

The programme aired two years prior to Diana’s death in a car crash in Paris and proved to be one of the defining television events of the 1990s, with the princess speaking candidly about her failed marriage to Prince Charles and saying of his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

Former BBC director-general Lord Hall has meanwhile said he accepts that his own inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the interview in 1996 had “failed to meet the standards that were required”.

Mr Bashir grew up in Wandsworth in south London in the 1960s, one of five children born to Pakistani Muslim parents, his father serving in the Royal Navy in the Second World War.

He attended Wandsworth School and King Alfred’s College of Higher Education, Winchester, where he studied English and history before completing a master’s degree at King’s College London.

He was first employed by the BBC as a freelance sports journalist in 1986 before joining full-time and working for the corporation until 1999 on a variety of programmes including Songs of Praise, Public Eye and Panorama.

An Interview with HRH The Princess of Wales would draw an astonishing 23 million viewers when the BBC ran it in November 1995 and would prove to be the defining event of Mr Bashir’s career - outside of another sit-down Q&A with a figure of immense pop cultural fascination.

His fly-on-the-wall documentary Living with Michael Jackson aired in February 2003 towards the end of a five-year stint at ITV and attracted a highly mixed response from audiences, with the reclusive King of Pop’s many ardent fans accusing him of betraying the star’s trust and exploiting the rare access he was granted to visit Jackson’s California theme park home, the Neverland Ranch.

Mr Bashir’s persistent questions about the singer’s behaviour towards children drew their ire at the time but the release of another documentary, the harrowing Leaving Neverland in 2019, served to more than justify the approach.

From 2004 to 2016, the presenter relocated to New York, where he worked as an anchor on ABC’s Nightline, then as a political commentator for MSNBC and as a correspondent for NBC’s Dateline NBC.

He thereafter returned to the BBC as the corporation’s religious affairs correspondent, having converted from Islam to Christianity himself, before resigning this month due to Covid-related health complications.

Martin Bashir has also interviewed such figures as Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? cheat Major Charles Ingram, Louise Woodward, the five suspects in the Stephen Lawrence case, Michael Barrymore, Jeffrey Archer and George Best over the course of his career.

Perhaps more surprisingly, he has also released his own dub reggae album: Bass Lion (2010).

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in