By Victoria Mckeown-
The BBC “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark”, in its process for securing an interview with the late Princess Diana, a report has found.
The report published today officially condemned the underhandedness of the then BBC reporter Martin Bashir found, whose reputation is now forever tarnished beyond repair.
The report stated that Mr Bashir deceived Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, by showing him fake documents to gain his trust so he would introduce Mr Bashir to Diana. The documents misled Earl Spencer to believe his sister was being followed and the subject of a sinister plan to bring harm to her .
It added that Mr Bashir had lied when he told BBC managers he had not shown the fake documents to anyone, and described significant parts of Mr Bashir’s account of the events of 1995 as “incredible, unreliable, and in some cases dishonest”.
The interview was watched by over 23 million people at the time, and revealed Princess Diana’s innermost pain as she told the world that ”there were three of us in the marriage”, in reference to Prince Charles and Camilla Parker’s relationship.
In a statement, Mr Bashir apologised for mocking up the documents, but said he remained “immensely proud” of the interview.
He said: “The bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview.
“Evidence handed to the inquiry in her own handwriting (and published alongside the report today) unequivocally confirms this, and other compelling evidence presented to Lord Dyson reinforces it.”
Mr Bashir did not state what the other compelling evidence presented to Lord Dyson is was not stated, and Mr Bashir’s words that the mocked up bank statements played no part in her decision to take part in the interview are empty words he cannot support.
Mr Bashir’s actions were disgraceful – his efforts to play down the damage are vain.
The BBC’s director general, Tim Davie, said: “Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings.
“While today’s BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way.
“The BBC should have made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew.
“While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”
Lord Birt, director-general of the BBC at the time of the interview, said on Thursday: “We now know the BBC harboured a rogue reporter on Panorama who fabricated an elaborate, detailed but wholly false account of his dealings with Earl Spencer and Princess Diana”.
He added: “This is a shocking blot on the BBC’s enduring commitment to honest journalism; and it is a matter of the greatest regret that it has taken 25 years for the full truth to emerge.”
Lord Dyson said on Thursday: “The report demonstrates, I believe, that this has been the thorough and fair investigation I set out to do. All key individuals gave comprehensive testimony and I am grateful for their cooperation. It enabled my investigation to establish facts based on evidence and for me to draw the detailed conclusions that have been set out today.”
The report will sure have emotional effects on Princess Diana’s two surviving sons, Prince Harry and Prince William, who must have been privately dealing with the difficult resentment that accompanies a revelation on this scale of corruption and unprofessionalism.