BBC to review editorial policies and Martin Bashir hiringon May 24, 2021 at 2:25 pm

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A review is announced after the inquiry into the 1995 BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

The BBC is to review its editorial practices and investigate how journalist Martin Bashir was rehired, after the inquiry into his interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

Lord Dyson’s report found the BBC covered up “deceitful behaviour” used by Bashir to secure the interview.

The BBC board accepted the findings in full and reiterated its apology.

The Duke of Cambridge said his mother was failed “not just by a rogue reporter” but by BBC bosses.

The inquiry, published last week, found Bashir had faked documents – 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.

As media interest in the interview increased, the BBC covered up what it had learned about how Bashir secured the interview, the inquiry said.

In its statement, the board said it hoped to ensure the “mistakes of the past” could not be repeated.

“We accepted Lord Dyson’s findings in full and reiterate the apology we have offered to all those affected by the failings identified,” it said.

“We recognise the impact that the events it describes has had on so many people, not least those whose lives were personally affected by what happened. We also acknowledge that audiences had a right to expect better from the BBC.”

The board said it had “confidence” that the “processes and guidelines in today’s BBC are much stronger than they were in 1995”.

But it said “it is right that we review the effectiveness of the BBC’s editorial policies and governance in detail”.

Princess Diana interviewed by Martin Bashir

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

Bashir, who was subsequently promoted to religion editor, has since resigned without a pay-off.

BBC chairman Richard Sharp told the BBC’s World at One: “I take comfort from the fact that Martin Bashir is no longer here. I don’t take comfort yet from understanding why he was rehired. We will find that out.”

Asked what he knew of Bashir’s rehiring, including whether due diligence was carried out, he said: “I actually don’t know, that is being examined by the executive and they will report to the board on that. “I want to see the facts.”

The Panorama interview featured Princess Diana giving an extraordinarily frank account of her marriage to the Prince of Wales, famously saying “there were three of us in this marriage” – a reference to her husband’s affair with the future Duchess of Cornwall and admitting to an affair of her own.

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Analysis box by Amol Rajan, media editor

Richard Sharp’s intervention is significant partly because it is the first time a BBC figure has spoken since Prince William’s statement.

He made clear that his concern was not only the (lack of) integrity of the original broadcast, but the “culture” that allowed Bashir’s deceit and the subsequent “woeful” investigation.

The focus of this story is moving on, as Sharp acknowledged, to why Bashir was rehired by the BBC in 2016.

He was an employee of the BBC until this month.

As the clamour for reforms grow, this re-entry of Bashir to the BBC, and his subsequent promotion, undermines any hopes the corporation had that it could argue this all belongs to the past.

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Mr Sharp said that there was “no doubt… that the practices adopted in advance of the interview were entirely unacceptable in any ethical news journalism broadcasting entity, and that was a clear failure”.

He added: “It’s also clear that the approach to reviewing the programme and the practices failed. And that’s a separate failure which was identified in the prince’s statement to do with governance, accountability and scrutiny.”

James Harding, who was the director of BBC News when Bashir was rehired, said last week that he had not known the journalist had forged bank statements and, had he known, “he wouldn’t have got the job”.

Asked about whether he had consulted then-director general Lord Hall about the reappointment, Mr Harding, who left the BBC at the beginning of 2018, did not answer directly but said he himself took responsibility for Bashir’s rehiring.

Lord Dyson’s report, published last Thursday, said the BBC had fallen short of “high standards of integrity and transparency” over the interview.

The report said an internal BBC investigation in 1996, led by Lord Hall, into the initial complaints had been “woefully ineffective”.

The independent inquiry was commissioned by the BBC last year, after Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, questioned Bashir’s tactics to get the interview.

Lord Dyson found that Bashir had deceived Earl Spencer by showing him forged bank statements that falsely suggested individuals were being paid for keeping the princess under surveillance.

The inquiry said Bashir had later lied, telling BBC managers he had not shown the fake documents to anyone.

And it described significant parts of Bashir’s account of the events of 1995 as “incredible, unreliable, and in some cases dishonest”.

Bashir has said mocking up the documents “was a stupid thing to do” and that he regretted it, but said they had had no bearing on Diana’s decision to be interviewed.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Bashir said he was “deeply sorry” to her sons, the dukes of Cambridge and Sussex.

But he rejected Prince William’s claim that he had fuelled her paranoia, saying they were close and he “loved” her.

Following the report’s publication, the Duke of Cambridge said the deception fuelled his mother’s paranoia and worsened his parents’ relationship.

Due to the way it was obtained, Prince William has said the interview should not be shown again.

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