Prince William as personal as the public has ever
seen in Diana remarks
Analysis: usually guarded Duke of Cambridge reveals
pent-up fury as he comments on BBC’s handling of Panorama interview
Fri 21 May
2021 16.38 BST
delivered it to camera in a calm and measured tone. But the Duke of Cambridge’s
actual words had devastating impact and betrayed a fury pent up for a quarter
of a century.
He spoke of
“deceit” of “lurid and false” claims, of cover-ups, woeful incompetence and his
“indescribable sadness” over Lord Dyson’s findings on the BBC’s handling of the
now infamous Panorama interview.
short of taking the view of his uncle, Lord Spencer, that a direct line could
be drawn between the interview, an unprotected Diana, Princess of Wales, being
cut adrift thereafter, and her death two years later.
telling was what he did mention: his belief that it had contributed to a
worsening of his parents’ relationship and, strikingly, that it had “fuelled
William, ultra-private, guarded, famously taciturn in public on matters of
emotion – unlike his younger brother, Harry – this was about as deeply personal
as the public has ever seen.
surprised at how personal it was. It is very unlike statements that we normally
see from the future Prince of Wales and future king, one of the most revealing
we have ever had from him,” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty
ire was directed at the BBC leaders whose actions stymied any meaningful
investigation into claims raised at the time over methods employed by Panorama
reporter Martin Bashir to land his “interview of the decade – if not our
according to his statement, is that what Bashir told Diana influenced what she
said, and “created a false narrative”, a “settled narrative” that has endured
for 25 years.
royal observers, he witnessed his parents’ acrimonious split. Clearly, from his
statement, he also witnessed his mother’s feelings of isolation and paranoia.
He was undoubtedly aware of Andrew Morton’s book, Diana, Her True Story, with
which she cooperated. He surely must have suspicions the narrative was not
interesting that he mentioned paranoia. And also that he highlighted the
fractious relationship of his parents , saying the Panorama interview made it
much worse. So, it was quite a statement. And the fact that he was filmed making
it was a way of underlining his displeasure , and that he wanted it to be known
far and wide,” said Little.
false narrative? “I think that is going too far, really. Perhaps over-egging
Panorama interview was traumatic for William at the time. It has been said he
was against his mother doing it, that he had met Bashir and was suspicious of
him, and that he had advised her to be very careful, but she had reassured him.
it at school at Eton, and was devastated. “He came home from school. He was
absolutely furious. He’d watched it in his housemaster’s study. When, later,
his housemaster went to find him, his eyes were red with tears. It’s clearly a
deeply traumatic incident,” said royal historian Robert Lacey.
“simply responding” to Charles’s interview with Jonathan Dimbleby. She had been
in talks with others; it was just the BBC got to the head of the queue, he
a question of when; it was simply a question of who. All the things she said
would have been said anyway,” Lacey believes.
“astonished” at William’s statement. “I think emotion has overcome him. He has
clearly not allowed calmer, cooler royal advisers any hand in the drafting of
this,” said Lacey. It was “very emotive and impolitic”.
would never issue a personal statement like this. A future constitutional head
of state should have shown more detachment and balance and measure.”
trauma both William and Harry endured then, and through the sequence of events
leading ultimately to their mother’s death, the confirmation she had been
manipulated in some way undoubtedly gives focus to the hurt they have carried.
perhaps he has been wanting to find someone to blame, I suspect, for all these
years. And here we have a scapegoat,” royal biographer Penny Junor said of
William. “Something concrete to blame in the process of his mother’s death.
his mother at a very young age. He’s been angry, grief-stricken. All the
emotions that Harry’s now talking about, I’m sure that William will have
suffered them all. And, suddenly, something has been held up as contributing to
the breakup, the finality of the breakup of the marriage.
Fears of ‘feeding frenzy’ against BBC after Diana
Ex-chair of BBC Trust warns criticism could lead to
‘destroying something it would be impossible to recreate’
Walker, Mark Sweney and Ben Quinn
Fri 21 May
2021 18.50 BST
chair of the BBC Trust has warned against the “feeding frenzy” engulfing the
corporation as ministers said they would look at how it is governed in the wake
of damning findings about its 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
broadcaster faced further searching questions over its handling of the crisis,
Sir Michael Lyons, who chaired its governing body at the time, said there was a
danger of destroying something that “would be impossible to recreate”.
on Friday night came as the media regulator Ofcom announced it would examine
whether any action was needed following a report into the Panorama episode,
saying the conclusions “raise important questions about the BBC’s transparency
Metropolitan police also said they would assess the contents of Lord Dyson’s
report “to ensure there is no significant new evidence”, after previously
deciding not to begin a criminal investigation.
intensity of criticism about the revelations that Martin Bashir used “deceitful
behaviour” to secure the interview, and that this was then covered up, are seen
as a possible catalyst for ministers to trim the independence and scope of the
secretary, Oliver Dowden, said he would “consider whether further governance
reforms at the BBC are needed”, while the justice secretary, Robert Buckland,
said the government would have to consider the report’s findings “very
carefully and comprehensively indeed”.
scheduled mid-term review of the BBC’s current 10-year charter, which sets out
the corporation’s governance, is due to begin early next year. Sources said one
option being looked at was the idea of accelerating this review, although no
formal work is expected to begin before 2022.
trust’s chair from 2010 to 2017, said critics had to accept that the
corporation “is not the same organisation it was 25 years ago”.
be some lessons to learn but the BBC remains important to the quality of life
in the UK and it is critical that any changes are measured and we don’t destroy
something it would be impossible to recreate,” he said.
who took over as BBC director general last year, was correct to accept the findings
of the report by the former supreme court judge John Dyson, Lyons said, adding:
“But this can’t be time for a feeding frenzy on the BBC.”
Grade, the former BBC chairman who is now a member of a government panel
looking into the future of public service broadcasting, warned the Dyson report
was “bound to be grist to the mill of the BBC’s enemies”, while saying it was
clear the corporation needed some reform.
called for the creation of a BBC editorial board of independent journalists,
although it is understood there are no immediate government plans for this.
report released on Thursday, Dyson found Bashir had commissioned fake bank
statements which falsely suggested people were being paid to monitor Diana so as
to gain access to her. He called this a “serious breach” of the BBC’s editorial
to the report, princes William and Harry condemned what they called a deception
which had heightened the paranoia of their mother and played a role in her
death two years after the interview.
Friday, Boris Johnson said he was “obviously very concerned” about the Dyson
report. He said: “I can only imagine the feelings of the royal family and I
hope very much that the BBC will be taking every possible step to make sure
nothing like this ever happens again.”
executives are under particular pressure to explain how Bashir, who left the
BBC in 1999, was then rehired in 2016 as religion editor, quitting the
corporation days before the Dyson report was published, and why it took so long
to uncover the wrongdoing.
a former BBC executive who was part of a 1996 internal investigation into the
interview, stepped down from his board role with Ofcom on Friday.
Julian Knight, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons culture and media
committee, said he had written to Davie to ask why Bashir had been hired again.
Harding, who was head of BBC News at the time Bashir returned, said that while
he did not know at the time the circumstances behind the Diana interview, the
“responsibility for that sits with me”.
As well as
the charter review, a key factor in repercussions from the Dyson report will be
any action potentially taken by Ofcom, which took over from the BBC Trust in
2017 to become the corporation’s first external regulator.
“considering the report, and will be discussing with the BBC what further
actions may be needed to ensure that this situation can never be repeated”,
said the regulator’s chief executive, Melanie Dawes.
separate report by MPs warning this week that the BBC had been “complacent”
over the numbers of people ignoring its output to watch rivals such as Netflix,
and some ministers publicly mulling the future viability of a mandatory licence
fee, the broadcaster is facing one of the most turbulent times in its
near-century of existence.
government sources played down the idea of immediate and drastic action, saying
one key test would be whether the BBC’s much-changed structure was seen as less
at risk of such failings, both in terms of the initial deception and time it
took to emerge.
happened in the 1990s, and the BBC’s governance has changed a lot since then,”
one source said. “We want to be satisfied that something like this would not
take place now. But it’s not going to be a knee-jerk response into doing
something radical. We have to look carefully at the report before we decide
Street has already said that the mid-term charter review will only look at the
BBC’s governance and regulation, and not its wider editorial independence.
of the BBC have warned the crisis could be exploited by those opposed to the
corporation. Steven Barnett, a professor of communications at Westminster
University and a co-founder of a new pro-public broadcasting lobby launched
this week, said the Bashir crisis could not happen now.
a number of self-interested parties, organisations and publishers who will take
every opportunity to kick the BBC,” said Barnett, a member of the steering
group of the British Broadcasting Challenge group of academics, writers and
“It wasn’t a false narrative. At the time Diana
was cock-a-hoop at having given this interview,” she added. ‘A cover-up’: what
the Dyson report said about the BBC and Martin Bashir
Bashir’s lies to obtain Diana interview were
discovered by the BBC but effectively covered up, finds report
Bashir used fake bank statements to ‘groom’ Earl Spencer so that he could reach
his, Princess Diana. Photograph: NBC NewsWire/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal/Getty
Weaver and Ben Quinn
Thu 20 May
2021 21.04 BST
Martin Bashir trick Princess Diana into giving an interview?
is excoriating in his assessment of Bashir. While the duplicity Bashir used to
get his sensational interview with Diana is severely criticised as a “serious
breach” of BBC guidelines, his credibility as a witness to internal BBC
inquiries and to Dyson himself is also repeatedly questioned as his lies are
that Bashir commissioned phoney bank transactions by a graphic designer who
worked for the BBC. They purported to show payments from News International
into the account of Alan Waller, a former security guard for Earl Spencer, to
induce Spencer to arrange a meeting with his sister, Diana.
played on Spencer’s fears that Waller was selling secrets to the press. In
August he offered to help Spencer track down Waller and showed him fake bank
statements to gain his trust.
to Spencer’s account, accepted by Dyson, the bank statements were used “to
groom me, so that [Bashir] could then get to Diana for the interview he was
always secretly after”.
told Dyson: “It hooked me in. I was duped … He very cleverly came to me on my
number one bugbear: the bad behaviour of the press, which is of course ironic.”
bluffed Spencer, claiming that Diana could vouch for his story that Waller was
being paid for stories. He claimed he had developed a “close relationship” with
Diana in the summer of 1995 and that she had told him that Waller was one of
Spencer’s “pet hates”. Bashir even said that Diana had given him detailed
accounts of the payments involved. Dyson dismissed Bashir’s claim of a previous
friendship with Diana “incredible” and “unreliable”.
He said: “I
do not accept that Mr Bashir and Princess Diana had met and formed any kind of
relationship before Mr Bashir showed the fake Waller statements to Earl
meeting with Spencer at his Althorp estate on 14 September, Bashir also showed
him fake statements that he had forged himself, suggesting Prince Charles’s
private secretary, Commander Aylard, was being paid by “dark forces” hostile to
denied this, but Dyson did not believe his account. He accepted Spencer’s
version of events and that the phoney Aylard payments were “the absolute
clincher” in Bashir being introduced to Diana.
Diana for the first time on 19 September, with Spencer, Dyson concludes. “Mr
Bashir had established no kind of relationship with Princess Diana before” this
meeting, Dyson found. He added: “Mr Bashir invented the idea that he and
Princess Diana had already established a relationship before he showed the fake
Waller statements in order to prove that … he did not intend to use Earl
Spencer to secure an interview.”
Spencer’s records also noted that Bashir claimed at the meeting that Diana was
being watched by MI6 and that there was a plot to kill her, as well as making a
number of lurid allegations about members of the royal family. Dyson concluded
that Bashir was trying to exploit Diana’s vulnerability and her “paranoid fears”.
“He must have been intending to play on her fears in order to arouse her
interest in him,” Dyson found.
Dyson also concluded that regardless of Bashir’s deceptive tactics, Diana was
by that time “keen on the idea of a television interview” with “any experienced
and reputable reporter”.
The BBC has
a handwritten note from Diana stating that the documents played “no part in her
decision to take part in the interview”.
statement, Bashir said: “I re-iterate that the bank statements had no bearing
whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the
of Tony Hall
report provides uncomfortable reading for Lord Hall, the former director
general of the BBC who is now chair of the National Gallery.
was head of news and current affairs at the time of the interview, initially
praised Bashir for the interview. “You should be very proud of your scoop,” he
told him in a note.
emerged about how the interview was secured, Hall presided over an internal
review in 1996 that exonerated Bashir of wrongdoing. Its conclusion that
Bashir’s dealings with Diana were “absolutely straight and fair” were “not
justified”, Dyson found.
by Hall and Ann Sloman, the head of weekly news shows, was “based in large part
on the uncorroborated assertions of Mr Bashir. This error was compounded by
their failure to approach Earl Spencer once they knew that Mr Bashir had shown
the Waller statements to him.”
that when Bashir admitting lying over the bank statements, this “should have
set alarm bells ringing in their ears”.
also found to be guarded and misleading in answers to questions from the media
about how the interview was secured. He also misled the BBC’s board by claiming
that “the opportunity of interviewing the princess arose”. Dyson said this
account “gave no hint” of the controversial way Bashir had secured the
to the report, Hall, who left the BBC last summer, said he accepted his inquiry
“fell well short of what was required” and that he was “wrong to give Martin
Bashir the benefit of the doubt”.
Was there a
cover-up at the BBC?
scathing of the deception deployed by Martin Bashir, the clear finding by Lord
Dyson that the BBC then engaged in a cover-up is likely to be the source of
even greater damage to the broadcaster’s reputation for integrity.
satisfied that the BBC covered up in its press logs such facts as it had been
able to establish about how Mr Bashir secured the interview,” he concludes in a
particularly damning section entitled “Was there a cover-up?”.
media outlets reported on it, there was “no good reason” why any of the BBC’s
news programmes failed to mention the growing controversy surrounding how
Bashir had secured the Diana interview, writes Dyson.
back at the way in which the BBC handled queries from newspapers about the
Bashir interview, the peer went on to say that he was not persuaded by the
attempts made during his own investigation to justify what he described as
“evasive responses” that were given to the press.
So who was
responsible for the cover-up? On the basis of the evidence he had gathered,
Dyson said he was unable to make a finding as to who was responsible for
deciding that the story should not be covered, or for issuing an “official
line” to editors.
have been someone from senior management, but I can’t say who it was,” Dyson
he went on to rule out Steve Hewlett, who edited Bashir’s Panorama interview
and who died in 2017, because “his writ did not run beyond the programme”.
At the end
of what he described as a “thorough and fair investigation”, Dyson comes to the
conclusion that Martin Bashir mocked up fake bank statements and showed them to
Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, to gain access to the princess.
so, the veteran journalist “acted inappropriately” and engaged in a “serious
breach” of BBC rules as set down in the 1993 edition of its producers’
guidelines on straight dealing.
conclusions related to BBC investigations conducted by Tim Gardam, the former
head of weekly programmes, and Tim Suter, the managing editor of current
affairs, in December 1995; by Suter in March 1996; and by Hall and Sloman in
Peer did not criticise Gardam and Suter for not seeking to obtain Earl
Spencer’s version of events, he considered “that they too readily accepted that
Mr Bashir was telling the truth about the fake documents”.
was interviewed on 28 March 1996, he went on, the BBC had the additional
knowledge that the journalist had shown the bank statements to Earl Spencer and
that he had previously lied about this.
As for the
investigation conducted by Lord Hall and Sloman, he concluded that it was
“flawed and woefully ineffective”.
two flaws in particular. First, it was a serious error not to ask Earl Spencer
for his version of events and find out what he had to say about the fake
statements and what influence they had on him. Secondly, they did not
scrutinise Bashir’s account with the necessary degree of scepticism.
Dyson’s final conclusion dealt with the question of whether the BBC had covered
up the investigations into how Bashir secured the interview and the propriety
of the methods that he employed.
to mention on any news programme the fact that it had investigated what Mr
Bashir had done and the outcome of the investigations, the BBC fell short of
the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark,” he
This article was amended on 21 May 2021. An
earlier version used the word coruscating when excoriating was intended.
Gleeful point-scoring over ‘BBC Diana shame’
stinks of hypocrisy
As an ex-Sun editor put it, ‘those in glass houses’
should note the wrongs exposed were typical of tabloids
Fri 21 May
2021 18.36 BST
It was “the
BBC’s greatest day of shame in a century,” opined the Daily Mail, which devoted
a full 20 pages to the devastating Dyson report into the broadcaster’s handling
of Martin Bashir’s interview with Princess Diana.
meanwhile, devoted eight pages to the “BBC’s Diana shame”, almost as many as
the nine it produced the day after the award-winning interview aired in 1995.
perhaps inevitable that the BBC’s scandalous behaviour, covered up for so long
and largely uncovered by newspapers, should have opened the floodgates to such
gleeful score-settling, as well as howling delight that a rival news
organisation, held to a different, impartial code of conduct, had got it so
editorials about the “BBC’s Day of Shame” looked back not over the 99 years of
BBC history, nor the 25 years of this shameful episode, but just 10, to the
newspaper industry’s own dark days of the phone hacking scandal.
hullabaloo the BBC raised when rogue elements of the red-top press were accused
of phone hacking,” intoned the Mail, reverting to the “rogue reporter” line
discredited in both scandals.
It went on to
blame the BBC’s “blanket coverage” of that time for hastening the closure of
the News of the World and triggering the Leveson inquiry “with chilling
implications for media freedom”. Rather than blaming the illegal interception
of private messages, many of them involving the young royals.
comment by Andrew Neil, described as a “giant of broadcasting and ex-BBC star”
and not the founder of a soon-to-launched BBC rival, blamed Bashir’s lies and
the subsequent cover-up for Diana’s death. The BBC “scaled the moral high
ground during the great Fleet Street phone hacking scandal,” he wrote. “All the
while drawing a veil over its own cesspit.” “Their stinking hypocrisy is not
lost on us,” fulminated the Sun.
Not one of
these many thousands of words mentioned the tabloid press’s own role in
hounding Diana. To be fair, much has already been written about Earl Spencer’s
eulogy at his sister’s funeral in which he said she had wanted to leave England
“mainly because of the treatment that she received at the hands of the
plenty more evidence that a journalistic culture that turned a blind eye to
unethical means while fixating on the scoop-filled ends was not restricted to
Higgins, the former Sun editor, makes a brief but telling appearance in the
excoriating Panorama documentary about the scandal, saying of the interview in
1995: “There’s so much material here that we’re devoting at least nine pages to
becoming editor, Higgins was a royal reporter who won awards for his scoops.
While he was editor, the paper published an exclusive about the Queen ordering
Diana and Charles to divorce. He was also allegedly involved when the paper
paid £100,000 for a fake video of the princess in a clinch with a stranger.
which detracts from the fact of BBC wrongdoing. As its own media editor, Amol
Rajan, wrote, the Dyson report “shows a catalogue of moral, professional and
In a tweet,
however, David Yelland, who replaced Higgins as editor of the Sun, wrote of the
coverage: “All those in glass houses, editors past and present, should pause
before attacking the BBC and remember Bashir, then, was typical of our culture.
The Beeb is still a national asset, a prized thing, a force for good.” The same
could be said of all ethical journalism.
faces enormous challenges from a government run by a man sacked from the Times
for making up quotes and yet whose ministers continually threaten to change its
governance and otherwise cut it down to size.
also face an existential crisis brought about not just by the economic turmoil
of the digital transition, but by the onslaught of fake news and the spread of
“pious hypocrisy” was used by many papers – the Times as well as the Mail and
the Sun – to describe the BBC. Yet newspapers’ own hypocrisy – at the very
least a return to the “rogue” reporter argument – will surely not help now.