The fallout from the BBC’s infamous “Diana interview” is in full force, with the Commons Select Committee in the UK meeting to discuss plans for a one-off special evidence session on the scandal after it was found that reporter, Martin Bashir had created falsified bank documents designed to coerce the Princess and her brother into the interview.
The interview was sensationally dubbed the “get” of the decade, with Bashir, a relatively inexperienced journalist at the time adulated by his employer the BBC. During the interview, Diana revealed to millions of viewers that there were “three people” in her marriage to Prince Charles — the third party being Charles’ subsequent wife, Camilla Parker Bowles.
The Telegraph reported that over the past weekend, the MPs WhatsApp’d about requesting current and former BBC chiefs to appear before them.
This request comes after the the publication of former judge, John Dyson’s report into Bashir’s use of fake bank statements to persuade the late Princess of Wales to give her interview to him in a “serious breach” of the broadcaster’s guidelines.
Lord Dyson’s damning report found that Bashir got his interview on the news program by faking the documents that made Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer introduce him to her. He also allegedly lied to Diana to made her more paranoid about the Royal Family and the British establishment.
Some committee members want BBC’s director-general from 2013 to 2020 Tony Hall to answer questions about the conflict. Hall presided over a 1996 internal inquiry in the Panorama interview, and was heavily criticised in Lord Dyson’s report as “woefully inadequate.”
Hall was director-general of the BBC when Bashir was re-hired at the network as a correspondent in 2016.
BBC’s current director-general, Tim Davie, as well as BBC Chairman Richard Sharp, are also expected to testify about the protections in place to prevent the same mistakes occurring in future.
Over the weekend, Home Secretary Priti Patel, said that the BBC’s reputation had been “seriously, seriously damaged” by the controversy.
“Where is the BBC, the leadership of the BBC at this moment in time?” she asked. “Why aren’t they out there publicly giving confidence and building confidence in terms of the publication of this report?,” Patel told the Andrew Marr Show.
She added that criminal prosecutions are a possibility, telling Sky News’ Trevor Phillips that if “there is subsequent action that needs to be taken, then clearly – alongside the publication of this report and lessons being learned and changes, changes to the institution, structure, governance, accountability – then that will follow.”
Bashir has received aggressive blowback after giving a defensive interview where he failed to acknowledge the damage he caused by his deceit in securing the Princess Diana interview.
In an interview in the Sunday Times, Bashir, 58, who stepped down from the BBC as its religious affairs editor this month due to health reasons, defended himself by saying Diana had been happy with the interview.
He also said he loved her and that he was “deeply sorry” to her two sons for any upset he had caused them.
“Obviously I regret it, it was wrong,” he said. “But it had no bearing on anything. It had no bearing on Diana, it had no bearing on the interview.”
Former Panorama producer Mark Killick, who lost his job on Panorama after trying to come out with Bashir’s actions, told The Telegraph that Bashir appeared unable or unwilling to accept that many people have suffered because of his behaviour.
“It does strike me as quite extraordinary that Martin Bashir is trying to rehabilitate himself by launching a PR campaign quite so soon after what Lord Dyson said about him,” he said.
“I think it is clear that the Martin Bashir scandal hurt large numbers of people. It echoed right through on Princess Diana’s side of the line. Her courtiers had their reputations destroyed and lost their jobs.”
“The people who were named in the bank statements, who didn’t take payments, had their reputations destroyed. The collateral damage and the human cost of what he did is very high and he needs to engage that as well.”