‘Must never happen again’: Boris Johnson calls on BBC to change after report on Bashir’s Diana interview

‘I can only imagine the feelings of the royal family,’ says prime minister

Adam Forrest
Friday 21 May 2021 13:47 BST

Boris Johnson’s shares concerns over the findings in Lord Dyson’s report

Boris Johnson said he was “very concerned” about the findings of the official report which found TV journalist Martin Bashir behaved deceitfully to land his BBC interview with Princess Diana.

Speaking during a visit to Portsmouth, the prime minister said he hoped the public broadcaster “will be taking every possible step to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again”.

Mr Johnson said he would “very grateful” to Lord Dyson for his report into the interview controversy, adding: “I can only imagine the feelings of the royal family.”

The government has vowed to examine how the BBC is run after Lord Dyson’s damning report examining how the broadcaster got its bombshell 1995 Panorama interview with Diana.

The investigation concluded that Mr Bashir used “deceit” to land the interview, and also lambasted the BBC for its “woefully ineffective” investigation the following year.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden condemned “damning failings at the heart of the BBC” and suggested that a review of the broadcaster due to start next year could now be widened.

“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.

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 at the top in recent years.

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.”

Downing Street said a mid-term charter review of the BBC will only be focused on the corporation’s governance and regulation – not its editorial independence.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland pointed to Mr Bashir’s use of “false documents” in the run-up to the interview, describing the findings of Lord Dyson’s report as “hugely serious”.

The minister told Sky News on Friday: “There is a lot of work for the BBC to do in order to make good what happened here.”

Scotland Yard has said it will “assess the contents” of Lord Dyson’s report to ensure there is “no significant new evidence”. Police had previously decided against pursuing a criminal investigation into the controversy.

It follows scathing criticism of the BBC offered by Diana’s sons. William and Harry both condemned the broadcaster, saying their mother’s Panorama interview fuelled her “fear, paranoia and isolation” and was part a wider “culture of exploitation”.

The government recently backed away from a different battle with the public broadcaster, dropping threats to decriminalise the licence fee.

Meanwhile, the influential Public Accounts Committee warned on Friday that the BBC had “ducked the hard choices” over budget cuts which it will be forced to make.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, committee chair, said that “reorganising the deckchairs” in “this Titanic organisation” was not enough at a time when 200,000 households a year were cancelling their licence fee.

Join our 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