Martin Bashir: BBC ‘failed to tell truth for 25 years’ says Byrne
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The inquiry by the former master of the rolls concluded that journalist Martin Bashir used “deceitful behaviour” to land his world exclusive 1995 interview and an internal BBC investigation had covered it up. SNP MP and journalist John Nicolson said the BBC should address its “cover-up culture”.
The SNP’s media spokesperson also said Britain’s national broadcaster should focus on regaining trust in the wake of the interview.
The Ochil and South Perthshire MP also called for the BBC board to be strengthened with members who have journalistic experience.
Home Secretary Priti Patel claimed the BBC’s reputation has been “compromised” by the disclosures and suggested governance and accountability could be “strengthened”.
She said the forthcoming mid-term review of the BBC charter would be a “very, very significant moment” for the corporation.
Ms Patel added: “There will be an opportunity not only for reflection but an opportunity to look at governance reforms and how effectively accountability and governance can be strengthened.
“There will be a very, very significant moment now there is no question about this – where lessons have to be learned.”
Questions were also raised about the closeness of the BBC to the broadcast regulator Ofcom following the departure of a board member.
Tim Suter, another former BBC executive involved in the 1996 BBC internal investigation into the Diana interview, announced on Friday that he was stepping down from his board role with media watchdog Ofcom.
Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire, said: “Tim Suter appears to have been a poacher turned gamekeeper and that will reinforce people’s belief that Ofcom is a toothless regulator.”
In the report, Lord Dyson said Mr Bashir was in “serious breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines when he faked bank statements and showed them to Diana’s brother Earl Spencer to gain access to the princess.
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The internal inquiry in 1996, led by former director-general Lord Tony Hall, who was director of BBC news and current affairs at the time, exonerated Bashir, even though he had previously admitted lying about the fake documents he used in obtaining the interview.
Mr Bashir, who left the BBC last week due to ill health, said: “I don’t feel I can be held responsible for many of the other things that were going on in her life, and the complex issues surrounding those decisions.
“I can understand the motivation [of Earl Spencer’s comments] but to channel the tragedy, the difficult relationship between the royal family and the media purely on to my shoulders feels a little unreasonable.
“The suggestion I am singularly responsible I think is unreasonable and unfair.”
He admitted he commissioned documents purporting to show payments into the bank accounts of members of the royal household and said: “Obviously I regret it, it was wrong.
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“But it had no bearing on anything. It had no bearing on [Diana], it had no bearing on the interview.”
Scotland Yard has said it would study the report’s findings to assess whether it contains any “significant new evidence”.
In response, an Ofcom spokesman said: “Nobody should doubt that Ofcom acts with complete independence.
“Industry experience is vital to strong regulation and our team is made up of experts from a range of commercial, telecoms and media backgrounds, including newspapers, Channel 4, ITN, Sky and the BBC, as well as online platforms such as Google.
“We’ve made clear our serious concerns about Lord Dyson’s findings as well as our intention to continue to hold the BBC to account.”
BBC Director-General Tim Davie wrote to staff on Friday saying: “I know that we now have significantly stronger processes and governance in place to ensure that an event like this doesn’t happen again.
“However we must also learn lessons and keep improving.”
The BBC has been approached for comment.
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