Thursday, 17 Jun 2021

BBC overhaul on the way: Ministers vow change after ‘damning’ and ‘unacceptable’ failures

Boris Johnson: It’s up to BBC to make sure this doesn’t happen again

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has pledged to consider overhauling the organisation if necessary, while the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee has vowed to interrogate the corporation. Critics of the organisation are sharpening their knives following the findings of an independent report into how the BBC conducted itself when seeking to secure an interview with Princess Diana.

“Damning failings at the heart” of the corporation were exposed by the report according to the Government.

Lord Dyson, who carried out the independent investigation on orders of BBC management, found journalist Martin Bashir engaged in “deceitful behaviour” by commissioning fake bank statements to secure the interview.

It also accused BBC management of having “covered up in its press logs” what it knew about the methods used.

“Without justification, the BBC fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark,” the report said.

Following the report’s publication yesterday, Mr Dowden said: “Lord Dyson’s report reveals damning failings at the heart of the BBC.

“We will now reflect on Lord Dyson’s thorough report and consider whether further governance reforms at the BBC are needed in the mid-term Charter review.

“I welcome the fact that the new leadership launched this independent inquiry and expect them to ensure that this can never happen again.”

Suggesting reform was inevitable, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: “I think it’s incumbent upon everybody to soberly and calmly go through what has happened here, and to make appropriate changes in order to ensure that this sort of thing can never and should never happen again.”

He added: “The facts, sadly, speak very much for themselves.”

The BBC is governed by a Royal Charter which sets out the broadcaster’s purpose and missions as well as how it should be governed and regulated.

The current charter started on January 1 2017 and ends on December 31 2027.

However, a mid-term review of the charter will take place next year, looking at the governance and regulatory arrangements in place.

Julian Knight, chair of the DCMS select committee of MPs has vowed to “scrutinise” the BBC’s response to the report.

He said: “This forensic report by Lord Dyson finally gets to the truth of the events behind the BBC Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

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“It raises a number of unacceptable failings by the BBC in its internal investigation of the events behind the interview and I welcome the full acceptance of the findings by the BBC.

“The DCMS committee will be reviewing the report’s findings and will scrutinise the BBC’s response to the report as part of its ongoing scrutiny of the work of the BBC.”

The broadcaster’s current director-general, Tim Davie said in response to the report: “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.”

The fallout from the scandal will once again place a spotlight on the future of the BBC, with the broadcaster facing calls for the licence fee to be replaced by a subscription service.

Former No10 aide Dominic Cummings was leading the charge for change while an adviser to the Prime Minister.

The Government also launched a review on the decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee last year.

However, following Mr Cummings’s departure from Downing Street last November, momentum for BBC reform appeared to drop.

In January Mr Dowden announced ministers would not be going ahead with plans to decriminalise non-payment of the TV licence fee, but said it would “remain under active consideration”.

In a statement following the report’s findings Mr Bashir apologised and said: “It was a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret.”

But he has insisted “the bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview” citing a handwritten note from Diana which was also published alongside the report.

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