BBC to review editorial practice in wake of Diana interview scandal


PTI, May 24, 2021, 7:40 PM IST

The BBC Board on Monday announced a review of its editorial policies after an independent inquiry into its 1995 interview with Diana, the Princess of Wales, concluded last week that the media house had fallen short of “high standards of integrity and transparency”.

The inquiry by Lord John Dyson concluded that journalist Martin Bashir, who left the BBC recently, used ”deceitful behaviour” to land the world exclusive over 25 years ago and that an internal BBC investigation a year later had covered it up.

In an official statement, the BBC Board admitted failures and said: “audiences had a right to expect better”.

”As a board we believe that the BBC is a different organisation today, with different and stronger governance, as well as improved processes,” the statement read.

“Nevertheless, Lord Dyson’s report speaks to historic failings of oversight and these should be reflected upon. We must not just assume that mistakes of the past cannot be repeated today – we must make sure that this is the case,” it said.

”As such, we think it is right that we review the effectiveness of the BBC’s editorial policies and governance in detail,” it added.

The review will be undertaken by a group of non-executive board directors, led by Sir Nick Serota – senior independent director of the BBC.

It will look at ”oversight of editorial practices”, the culture of the BBC, and assess the ”robustness and independence of whistleblowing processes”, and report to the BBC Board in September.

The review will also identify ”lessons to be learned” from the Dyson inquiry, which found Bashir had faked bank statements designed to suggest Princess Diana was under surveillance to win the trust of her brother Earl Spencer, and eventually gain access to the princess for the 1995 ‘Panorama’ interview.

The BBC rehired Bashir as Religion Editor in 2016, when questions had already been asked about his conduct, saying the post was filled after a competitive interview process.

Bashir, a 58-year-old Pakistani-origin journalist, who has stood by his interview and claimed the fake documents had no bearing on it, has since resigned from the BBC on health grounds. The new inquiry will also look into his employment history and his rehiring process.

The ‘Panorama’ interview featured Princess Diana giving an explosive account of her marriage to Prince Charles, famously saying ”there were three of us in this marriage”.

Her sons – Princes William and Harry – have since issued separate statements condemning the methods deployed for the interview, two years before Diana died in a car crash in Paris in August 1997.

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