Minister threatens fresh BBC shake-up after ‘deceitful’ Diana interview condemned by inquiry

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden attacks ‘damning failings at the heart of the BBC’ adding ‘We will now reflect on Lord Dyson’s thorough report’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 21 May 2021 09:19 BST

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A fresh shake-up of the BBC has been threatened by the government after a reporter’s “deceitful behaviour” to secure an interview with Princess Diana was revealed.

The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, condemned “damning failings at the heart of the BBC” and pointed to a review of the Corporation already starting next year.

“We will now reflect on Lord Dyson’s thorough report and consider whether further governance reforms at the BBC are needed in the mid-term Charter review,” he tweeted.

The justice secretary, Robert Buckland, pointed to Martin Bashir’s use of “false documents, forgery etcetera”, laid bare in Lord Dyson’s devastating 127-page report.

“These are hugely serious matters that don’t just raise questions about the individuals and the journalists involved but also the senior leadership,” Mr Buckland told Sky News.

“So there is a lot of work for the BBC to do in order to make good what happened here.”

However, Mr Dowden also hinted at a recognition that the scandal had taken place under a different management regime at the BBC, with signs of welcome changes since.

Furthermore, the government has already backed away from a different battle with the Corporation – after dropping threats to decriminalise the licence fee, under pressure.

Mr Dowden added: “I welcome the fact that the new leadership launched this independent inquiry and expect them to ensure that this can never happen again.”

Lord Dyson said the “deceitful” Mr Bashir had used fake bank statements to gain access to Diana, then playing on her fears about the Royal Family to trick her into being interviewed in November 1995.

The tactics had “seriously breached” BBC editorial rules – yet its leadership had reacted by launching a cover-up that had protected their reporter.

The report savaged ex-BBC chief Lord Hall over a “woefully ineffective” attempt to investigate complaints about Mr Bashir’s conduct, also criticising the way the scandal was buried on its own news channels.

Michael Grade, a former BBC chairman and a Conservative peer, said: “It’s time that there was a proper editorial board with real powers, reporting to the main board, but with specialist knowledge.

“People who are ex-journalists or have had senior editorial responsibility in the media, who know the questions to ask and know how to judge what’s going on.”

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