One of the long-due yet drastic developments that have acquired the center stage in the UK since May 2021, is the revelation of the usage of deceitful ways by journalist Martin Bashir who came up with an explosive interview with the late Princess Diana in 1995. This narrative has seen a new and significant development. It is being reported now that former BBC Chiefs - Lord Tony Hall and Lord John Birt will be questioned by the Members of Parliament (MPs) about events leading to the interview in question - which in the words of Prince William and Harry further destroyed the bonds of the royal family and had a severe impact on their mother’s mental health, making it even worse.
They will also be questioned about the handling of BBC of the investigation into how Martin Bashir was able to attain this explosive and world-exclusive interview and try to figure out whether the broadcasting station played a significant role in covering up his traces or not and other concerns and aspects like that, to uncover the truth, which everyone especially those closest to Princess Diana deserve to know.
The recent report by former judge Lord Dyson criticized the means used by the journalist to secure the interview in 1995, including the usage of fake bank statements. It also suggested that BBC had failed to uphold “governance, accountability and scrutiny” with regards to its internal investigation in 1996 as per the demand of Earl Spencer, the brother of Princess Diana. This was under the jurisdiction and carried out by Lord Hall, the then managing director of news and current affairs and Lord Birt was the director-general, who has been summoned now for questioning. Lord Hall went on to become the director-general from 2013 to August 2020.
Alongside, to provide evidence to aid the investigation and to confirm Lord Dyson’s findings and imputations, the current director-general of BBC, Tim Davie and chairman Richard Sharp will also appear before the MPs, who are a part of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee under the British Parliament.
The demand for the proper and transparent investigation on this interview, while questioning the ethical standards of both Bashir and BBC has been impending for the past 26 years, especially after the bombshell interview only led to things becoming much grimy for Princess Diana, if no one else. Both Prince William and Prince Harry have come forth and expressed their anger and slammed BBC, while responding to the report released.
In an unprecedented move, Prince William said, “the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said,” and it “was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship even worse.” Besides everything, knowing the Duke of Cambridge’s personality and his way of handling things, this came as a major shock, and can be seen as one of the underlying reasons behind the way the investigation now can pick up the pace it could not 26 years ago.
On the other hand, Prince Harry, apparently now estranged from the royal family, also released a statement where he said that these kinds of practices exposed by the inquiry were the reason why “our mother lost her life.”
Like mentioned before, the outspoken attack by both the princes on BBC, along with the release of the report and the undying love, respect and admiration people have for Princess Diana has put some considerable pressure on the government to bring about reformations to the state broadcaster, which has led to the development we are seeing today.
What led to the inquiry into the interview of Princess Diana?
Ever since the interview came out in 1995, there has been a lot of controversy and suspicions regarding the circumstances under which the interview was conducted. In April 1996, there were media reports which claimed that Martin Bashir, the journalist who conducted the interview had used falsified documents to get access to the late Princess Diana. As a result, BBC conducted an internal investigation, but they found that he had used “fair means” to secure and conduct the interview.
However, things started to take a drastic turn. In November 2020, which marked the 25th anniversary of this infamous interview, Earl Spencer, Princess’s younger brother gave an interview to a British newspaper laying out how he was shown fake bank statements by Bashir, which apparently showed how one of his former employees had accepted payments from the press and within the royal family. He said that it was this that made him introduce his sister to Bashir, who then convinced her for the interview. The Earl also showed the notes out of the conversation he had with Bashir and Diana, shortly before the interview, in which the journalist told the Earl and Diana that her mails were intercepted, her car tracked, and that her friends and employees were plotting against her. According to the Earl, they were also told that Prince Edward was being treated for AIDS along with that Queen Elizabeth was a “comfort eater.”
At this juncture one must be wondering, did Diana know or believe that she was tricked? Apparently not. A month after the interview was aired, she wrote a note to Bashir, which said, “Martin Bashir did not show me any documents, nor give me any information that I was not previously aware of. I consented to the interview on (the BBC) without undue pressure and have no regrets concerning the matter.” However, the Princess of Wales was likely unaware that Bashir had shown fake documents to her brother in order to gain access to her.
In his statement, Prince William also said, “if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived. She was failed not only by a rogue reporter but by the leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions.”
What is going to happen next?
Even though BBC has swiftly issued an unreserved apology, it doesn’t answer and provide the solution to the loss the royal family has faced and also the life and personality millions cherish even now, especially her children, but also the impending questions on the system and functioning of the corporation, which is majorly funded by the British taxpayer. Therefore it is likely that the UK government may probe into the structure, functioning and governance of the BBC, as the government, rightly so, has stakes on it and has responsibilities towards it, to bring about reforms that are needed and long-due. Questions are also being raised on the transparency of funding of the corporation, another aspect that might see some shocking revelations in the future.
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