Sunday, 13 Jun 2021

BBC's DG Tim Davie insists BBC CAN show Princess Diana interview clips

Director-general Tim Davie insists BBC CAN show clips of Martin Bashir’s Princess Diana interview despite Prince William’s plea for it never to be aired again as he confirms ‘rogue reporter’ is STILL on payroll

  • Prince William had urged the Panorama interview should never be aired again
  • He said it had fuelled the ‘paranoia and isolation’ of his mother Princess Diana
  • Director-General Tim Davie confirmed they would never show the full chat
  • But he said clips may be broadcast again to ‘show the context of that interview’
  • He also confirmed Bashir was still being paid and working three-month notice
  • The DG added he wanted to meet whistleblower Matt Wiessler and apologised

The BBC has refused Prince William’s heartfelt appeal for Martin Bashir’s Princess Diana interview to be never shown again – as the broadcaster said it could still use clips in the future.

Director-General Tim Davie said he would never air the full chat – now known to have been secured after fake bank documents were created – but signalled segments could still be considered.

It appeared to be in opposition to the extraordinary request from the Duke of Cambridge’s plea on Thursday night that the Panorama programme should never be shown again.

The BBC’s views were made plain this morning in the DG’s interview, which also disclosed Bashir would still be paid his estimated £100,000 salary until next month. 

Mr Davie said: ‘I have no intention of ever airing the interview again. I think we need to discuss clips and reflect on that.

‘If you take our Panorama programme, where I note that no other organisation in the world would let their journalists investigate ourselves.

‘I think there is a legitimate case about whether you need clips to show the context of that interview.

‘My view is that you cannot now look at this interview free from the context in it which is was secured. So any use of clips have to be considered in that context.’

William had said Martin Bashir’s ‘lurid and false claims’ to secure it fuelled the ‘paranoia and isolation’ of their mother’s final years.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie said that Martin Bashir was still being paid by the BBC

Richard Ayre, then BBC controller of editorial policy, believed Bashir may have committed a crime when he used fake bank slips to secure his 1995 interview with Princess Diana (above)

The Duke of Cambridge said Bashir’s deceit in obtaining his 1995 interview hastened his parents’ divorce and ‘hurt countless others’.

His brother Prince Harry – who is based in California – also responded to Lord Dyson’s damning report into how the interview was obtained, saying his mother ‘lost her life because of this’. 

The Duke of Sussex thanked those who took ‘some form of accountability’ for ‘owning it’, but said ‘the ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took [Diana’s] life’.

In a statement, Prince William laid bare his ‘indescribable sadness’ that his precious final years with his mother had been marred by the isolation the historic Panorama interview caused. 

What ‘saddens’ him the most was that should a 1996 investigation into claims Diana was hoodwinked by Bashir have been conducted ‘properly’, the princess would have known she was ‘deceived’ prior to her death in 1997, he claimed.

He said the interview now held ‘no legitimacy’, had established a ‘false narrative’ for 25 years, and the BBC’s failings had let his mother, his family and the public down. 

The Duke of Cambridge read his bombshell statement to camera in a courtyard at Kensington Palace – his London residence and the home of his late mother. 

Appearing on a Panorama special about the scandal, the princess’s brother Earl Spencer linked his sister’s death to the BBC and the crisis of trust he claimed that engulfed her after she was deceived by Bashir. 

Ex-chief superintendent Dai Davies said: ‘It seems to me that there is clear and unequivocal evidence that the Met Police should be at the very least investigating these allegations’

Richard Ayre, then BBC controller of editorial policy, believed Bashir may have committed a crime when he used fake bank slips to secure his 1995 interview with Princess Diana

His devastating verdict came as a judge ruled the shamed journalist hoodwinked the princess with an elaborate fiction that painted some of those closest to her as traitors. 

The ‘rogue reporter’ commissioned fake bank statements to secure his interview with Princess Diana – but covered up his ‘deceitful behaviour’ in a ‘shocking blot’ on the BBC’s near 100-year history.

Bashir is still being paid his estimated £100,000 a year salary by the BBC, its Director-General admitted this morning, as he promised to publish a report next week into how he was hired again.

Key conclusions of yesterday’s bombshell report that brought shame on the BBC

The journalist, 58, slated for how he hoodwinked Princess Diana into giving her Panorama interview 25 years ago, was not sacked despite details of his wrongdoing being widely-reported.

Instead DG Tim Davie told Radio 4’s Today programme he had been allowed to work a three-month notice period, due to health reasons and consideration of any further legal problems. 

It means Bashir is still being paid by the BBC and technically still working for the broadcaster after he resigned in April.  

The surprising situation was revealed in a wide-ranging interview where he apologised again to whistleblower Matt Wiessler, the artist commisioned to make the fake bank documents at the centre of the scandal.

Mr Davie said they were looking into why Bashir was rehired by the BBC despite issues raised about him.

He said: ‘We will have all the information out in the public domain next week, we will be completely transparent about that.

‘He is working out a short notice period because he resigned and that’s where we are now.

‘I made that decision I think for three reasons: Martin Bashir offered his resignation prior to us seeing the Dyson report.

‘I think there were three reasons why I accepted the resignation: the first were that there were very significant medical care issues, which in terms of Martin Bashir as a staff member regardless of all the situation around it, is a factor.

In a statement, Prince William told of his ‘indescribable sadness’ that the controversial Panorama interview increased his mother’s ‘fear, paranoia and isolation’ in her final years.

Timeline of the Diana-Panorama scandal

1986: Martin Bashir joins BBC as news correspondent and works on programmes including Songs of Praise, Public Eye and Panorama.

November 1995: The famous interview with Princess Diana turns Mr Bashir into TV’s hottest property.

1996: The Mail on Sunday reveals claims that Mr Bashir used faked bank documents to persuade Diana to talk. The BBC holds internal inquiry dismissed as a ‘whitewash’.

1999: Moves to ITV’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald. His scoops include interview with Stephen Lawrence suspects and documentary on Michael Jackson.

May 2004: Quits to host ABC’s Nightline in US. Suspended in 2008 after making ‘Asian babes’ remark at Asian American Journalists convention.

2010: Joins NBC News as an MSNBC anchor. He resigns in 2013 after controversial remarks about vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

2016: BBC re-hires Mr Bashir as religious affairs correspondent. He is later promoted to religion editor.

October 2020: Channel 4 documentary alleges there was ‘elaborate plot’ by Mr Bashir to trick Diana into talking.

November 7: The Daily Mail reveals a shocking dossier held by Diana’s brother Earl Spencer revealing alleged royal smears, lies and tricks that Mr Bashir used to land his interview.

November 18: BBC orders six-month inquiry by former judge Lord Dyson.

May 14, 2021: The BBC announces Mr Bashir has handed in his notice on health grounds. 

‘The second is that it allowed a clean break with no pay-off, which I thought was in the licence fee payers interest to make sure there was a clean process.

‘The third is that there is no restraint in us getting to the truth, this was not an honourable discharge, we were able to go after that report and fully expose.

‘He’s got a three month notice period, three months from the moment he resigned so we are nearly out.’

The broadcasting chief told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he would meet with Mr Wiessler to say sorry. 

He added: ‘I will again reiterate full and unconditional apology to him.

‘And I would like to meet him. I think we need to engage with people to talk to him and the apology is fulsome – I feel shocked.

‘This does need to go through a legal discussion, we will engage in that discussion because clearly we were at fault.

‘I commissioned Lord Dyson it was 25 years, we had to get to the truth.’

The Dyson report is currently being assessed by detectives from the Metropolitan Police to see if there is any new evidence of any criminal wrongdoing.

Scotland Yard said in a statement that they had determined in March that ‘it was not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity in connection with a documentary broadcast in 1995, but should any significant new evidence emerge it would be assessed’.

But they added: ‘Following the publication of Lord Dyson’s report we will assess its contents to ensure there is no significant new evidence.’

Critics say the report had provided ‘clear and unequivocal evidence’ that must be pursued.

Last week it emerged that Richard Ayre, the BBC’s controller of editorial policy in 1995, believed Bashir, the BBC’s former religion editor, may have committed a crime when he used fake bank statements to secure his interview with Diana.

In evidence to Lord Dyson, Mr Ayre said: ‘I have no doubt that if he did what is, as I understand it, alleged, that of course would have been unacceptable.’

Matt Wiessler, who was sacked from the BBC after details of his role in making the bank statements emerged, spoke to the BBC’s Today Programme on Tuesday

‘I was the fall guy’, says designer asked by Bashir to draw up the fake bank statements 

Graphic designer Matt Wiessler, who was commissioned by Martin Bashir to create mocked-up documents, said Lord Dyson’s report showed he had been made ‘the fall guy’.

He said in a statement: ‘After a quarter of a century of cover-ups and smears, it’s good to know the truth is finally out that I acted with integrity and responsibly from day one. By blowing the whistle on the deception, I suffered the fate of the fall guy.

‘Lord Dyson correctly found the BBC investigation carried out after I raised the alarm was seriously flawed and a smokescreen to protect Bashir. The order from BBC management to make sure I never got any more work from the BBC was despicable. It had a devastating effect on my career and professional reputation.

‘I hope those responsible for the cover-up will now do the right thing and apologise to me. Tim Davie’s attempted apology today is so bland as to be meaningless. So much damage has been done, not only to me but also to Princess Diana and her family.’

He suggested it would be a criminal offence to approach anyone with a forged document that defamed people. ‘Of course it would have been indefensible,’ he added.

A lawyer for Earl Spencer’s former head of security, Alan Waller, made an official complaint to Scotland Yard Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick in January alleging potential fraud. 

He accused Bashir of ‘dishonest conduct’ and said the BBC had ‘benefited’ while being aware that his actions were ‘unlawful’.

But after spending three months assessing the claims, police announced they would be taking no further action.

That decision was described as a ‘farce’ yesterday by a former head of royal protection, who said many questions had been left unanswered.

Ex-chief superintendent Dai Davies, who once led the Metropolitan Police royal protection unit, said: ‘It seems to me there is clear and unequivocal evidence that the Met Police should be at the very least investigating these allegations. 

‘I simply cannot understand why they won’t investigate given what I understand from the testimony may be a crime.

‘It seems there’s one rule for the BBC and one rule for the rest of us. Normally there would be a criminal inquiry before a civil inquiry.

‘I’m absolutely flabbergasted that there was not enough basic evidence of forgery and fraud here. It beggars belief.’

Mr Davies added: ‘What is it the Met don’t understand about the word dishonest? 

‘My concern is that others may have covered this up and if it was a crime, they may have conspired to conceal forged documents and that concealment could amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.’

Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray, who leads the force on specialist crime, announced in March that legal advice had been sought from the Crown Prosecution Service and independent lawyers before it was decided not to launch a probe. 

Lord Hall, the BBC’s former director general, was accused of helping covering up the scandal, with his 1996 internal inquiry concluding his star reporter Martin Bashir was an ‘honest man’. MPs want him to explain himself

What did Martin Bashir say in response to damning BBC report into Diana interview? 

On Princess Diana:

‘I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don’t believe we did. 

‘Everything we did in terms of the interview was as she wanted, from when she wanted to alert the palace, to when it was broadcast, to its contents … My family and I loved her.’

‘I don’t feel I can be held responsible for many of the other things that were going on in her life, and complex issues surrounding those decisions. 

‘I can understand the motivation 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.’

‘She was a pioneering princess. When you think about her expressions of grief in her marriage, when you think about the admission of psychiatric illness – just extraordinary! And her sons have gone on to champion mental health.

On Lord Dyson’s report: 

‘I don’t understand what the purpose of this is ultimately? OK, maybe you want to destroy me, but outside of this, what’s the point? 

‘I did something wrong… but for pity’s sake, acknowledge something of the relationship we had and something of what she contributed through that interview. 

‘One of the saddest things about all of this has been the way the content of what she said has almost been ignored.’

On William and Harry:

He said he is ‘deeply sorry’.

‘I can’t imagine what their family must feel each day, although I know a little of that myself having lost a brother and father prematurely.’

On Diana visiting his wife in hospital after she gave birth to their third child: 

‘We were friends. She was spectacular. 

‘She said to me: “You must let me know the moment the baby arrives,” and an hour later, there was a knock on the delivery room and in she walked.’

On showing Earl Spencer the forged bank statements:

‘Obviously I regret it, it was wrong. But it had no bearing on anything. It had no bearing on [Diana], it had no bearing on the interview.’

On failing to approach graphic designer Matt Wiessler who made the forgeries:

‘I don’t think I did, no. I am sorry about that.’

The commander has previously come under fire for not pursuing another alleged scandal in 2019, after Virginia Roberts alleged she was trafficked to Britain by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with Prince Andrew, who denies the claim.

A Met spokesman said: ‘In March 2021, the [force] determined it was not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity in connection with a documentary broadcast in 1995 but should any significant new evidence emerge it would be assessed.

‘Following the publication of Lord Dyson’s report, we will assess its contents to ensure there is no significant new evidence.’ 

The BBC is also returning all awards the explosive interview accrued, including a Bafta TV gong won in 1996.

Bashir announced he was stepping down from his role as the BBC News religion editor last week on health grounds, but actually resigned in April.

Patrick Jephson, the Princess of Wales’ private secretary at the time, also appeared in last night’s documentary.

He told Panorama that Diana was ‘cast adrift’ from her ‘royal support structure that had guided and safeguarded her for so many years’ because of Bashir’s claims and the fallout from the interview.  

Mr Jephson added: ‘Inevitably it made her vulnerable to people who were unable properly to look after her.’  

The documentary also shows a note written from Diana to her brother Earl Spencer after he informed her of Bashir’s elaborate allegations that she was being spied on.

The note – addressed to the earl with Diana’s pet name for her brother ‘Carlos’ – reads: ‘Darling Carlos, I so appreciated the contents of our telephone call this morning, it all makes complete sense to what is going on around me at this present time. 

‘”They” underestimate the Spencer strength! Lots of love from Duch x’. 

The programme also revealed a confidential internal BBC management document written by the outgoing head of TV Current Affairs, Tim Gardam.

It states that Bashir had misled his bosses by denying he had shown the fake bank statements to anyone. 

The journalist later admitted that he had, in fact, shown them to Earl Spencer in order to ‘foster’ their relationship. 

A statement drawn up by former BBC director-general Tony Hall for the corporation’s governors in April 1996 described the fakes as just ‘graphics’ and said Martin Bashir had no explanation for why he’d created them.

He went on: ‘I believe he is, even with his lapse, honest and an honourable man’. 

In the same statement to the BBC’s governors, Mr Hall also acknowledged that Bashir regarded Spencer as ‘the best route’ to ‘get to the Princess of Wales.’

Film and theatre director and former BBC governor Sir Richard Eyre – who attended the April 1996 meeting – told Panorama that had Tony Hall disclosed to the governors that Bashir had lied, they would have insisted on a full inquiry.

He said: ‘The fact that Bashir lied should have been made clear to us, but in my memory, it never was. 

‘Constitutionally we, the governors, deserved at the very least to be given an honest report of what was going on. 

‘We can see now that the false bank statements were the lever that opened the doors to the access to Diana. 

‘If we had known at the time, there’s no question that this would have been ruthlessly investigated, because [the governors] were very, very, very hot on a sense of propriety of the organisation.’

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