Diana interview scandal is a scar on the holier-than-thou BBC…exposed by newspapers
IT was the most explosive interview of its time.
And now, decades later, it turns out that the BBC got it by deceit.
The damning independent inquiry into Martin Bashir’s interview with Princess Diana raises the most serious questions about what has been going on at the BBC in recent years.
How did a man who a former BBC Director-General describes as a “rogue reporter” get away with what he did?
How did he get away with forging bank statements to obtain an interview?
How did he get away with lying to and manipulating the most famous woman in the world and her brother to get his way?
How, more importantly, did the BBC get away with an internal review 25 years ago that was performed by a man who went on to be Director- General of the BBC.
A job he got after performing a whitewash of the corporation in 1996?
All these questions, and more, now swirl around the publication of Lord Dyson’s investigation.
And once again it raises the most serious questions about the BBC, an increasingly arrogant institution that has come a long way from its benevolent “Auntie” persona.
TURN A BLIND EYE
Even the BBC’s own media editor, Amol Rajan, did not mince his words.
The Dyson report, he said last night, “shows a catalogue of moral, professional and editorial failures”.
It is a “scar” on the BBC, he added.
Of course, we’ve been here before.
Nine years ago the world learned about the appalling crimes of Jimmy Savile
In the aftermath of that we got small snapshots of how the BBC disc jockey and presenter got away with his horrendous crimes
We learned of a pattern of turning a blind eye at the BBC.
A pattern of the corporation protecting its own.
And a corporate habit of making sure stories that might damage the BBC never saw the light of day.
It is the same pattern revealed in the Dyson report.
It points the finger at Lord Hall — who went on to become BBC Director-General — whose “inquiry” into Bashir’s deceit proved to be “woefully ineffective”.
Of course, Lord Hall now says he shouldn’t have taken Bashir at his word 25 years ago when he wrote up his inquiry into the events around the Panorama programme.
But it is easy to say that now.
Hall seems to have had no alternative but to admit this, realising that the independent review was going to make these damning revelations.
The question is why the BBC didn’t manage to come to this conclusion years ago, without an expensive independent inquiry into its behaviour?
Could it be that it was just far too pleased with its great exclusive, something Hall wrote to Bashir to suggest was the scoop “of our generation”, to want to tarnish it?
What makes it worse for the BBC is that the corporation talks such a “holier-than-thou” game when it comes to the media.
It likes to present itself as the unimpeachable final word on journalistic ethics.
Different from the newspapers and other competitors to the BBC.
Oh how grubby are they!
The corporation’s news and cultural output consistently pumps out the line that it is different, even a cut above, everyone else.
And in one way it is different.
It is the only media in Britain that is paid for in what is effectively a tax on its customers.
If the findings in the Dyson report were about the newspaper industry the BBC would be crawling over it now.
If a journalist at a British newspaper had carried out a deception on such a grand scale, on such a massively high-profile target and with such devastating results, the BBC would be screaming for there to be consequences.
There would be calls for further inquiries, government legislation to rein in the Press and much more.
In fact, the only people to come across well in this unseemly scandal are the members of the Press.
Indeed, as the Dyson report shows, it was the rest of the Press that kept probing at the BBC’s dishonesty.
It was the newspapers of this country that kept on asking questions after the BBC had tried to put the matter to bed.
And while the rest of the non-BBC media was asking the tough questions, the BBC kept trying to put them off the scent.
The report shows that the corporation repeatedly gave “evasive answers” when asked about the methods used to obtain the interview
It finds that, while the rest of the media had its finger right on the problem, the BBC kept trying to dodge around it.
And Dyson shows that the BBC only had its first investigation because of pressure from the Press to put the matter to rest “once and for all”.
But he finds that in the subsequent questioning of Bashir by Lord Hall they simply accepted Bashir’s account.
Despite him being “unable or unwilling” to give “any credible explanation” for why he had forged the documents.
Dyson concludes that Hall’s investigation was “woefully ineffective”.
So now it is the BBC’s turn in the dock. It is the BBC that harbored a rogue reporter, marked its own homework and covered up its own high-level scandal.
There should be consequences.
But will there be?
Don’t bet on it.
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