The BBC has said that it will return a BAFTA it won in 1996 for its explosive Panorama interview with Princess Diana after an independent inquiry savaged the tactics used by reporter Martin Bashir to secure the sit-down.
Former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson concluded today that Bashir, the former MSNBC anchor, used forged bank statements to secure access to the Princess of Wales in 1995 and that the BBC was “woefully ineffective” in getting to the bottom of his wrongdoing at the time.
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Dyson’s excoriating investigation is being described as a phone-hacking moment for the BBC. Dyson said Bashir “deceived” his way to the interview that made his name, while the BBC “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark.”
In light of the findings, the BBC has apologized profusely and said: “The 1995 Panorama interview received a number of awards at the time. We do not believe it is acceptable to retain these awards because of how the interview was obtained.”
Panorama Interview With HRH The Princess Of Wales won a BAFTA in 1996 for best television talk show, while Bashir was named journalist of the year and interviewer of the year at the Royal Television Society awards. Other prizes included two from the Broadcasting Press Guild, including TV journalist of the year.
In a statement, BBC 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.”
Bashir has also acknowledged his error of judgement. He said: “This is the second time that I have willingly fully co-operated with an investigation into events more than 25 years ago. I apologised then, and I do so again now, over the fact that I asked for bank statements to be mocked up. It was a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret. But I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently.”