The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, has accused the BBC of failing his mother Princess Diana and harming her relationship with husband Prince Charles. An inquiry found that BBC journalist Martin Bashir used 'deceitful' means to obtain an interview with Diana in 1995.
Following this, the BBC has issued an apology for the way in which the interview was conducted, and that the audience has a right to expect more. “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,” said Tim Davie, the current director-general. “While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology.”
Martin Bashir, the journalist who conducted the interview, further said, “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.” However, he also added: “The bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview.”
Martin Bashir exited the BBC last week. He had interviewed Diana as part of the documentary series Panorama. The sensational interview saw Diana talking about her relationship with husband Prince Charles. She also addressed rumours about Charles' infidelity which led to the famous line, “there were three of us in this marriage”, referring to his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
An independent inquiry into the interview by retired judge Lord Dyson found that the interviewer Bashir had obtained the interview in a deceitful manner and used 'faked documents' to do the same. He also termed BBC's internal investigation into the matter in 1996 'woefully ineffective'. The person involved in the probe, future BBC chief Tony Hall, admitted that the probe fell short and added that he was wrong to give Bashir the 'benefit of the doubt'.
BBC Panaroma launched an internal probe into this infamous interview in an investigative series titled Princess Diana, Martin Bashir and the BBC. They revealed that Bashir used 'elaborate lies' to secure the interview. Prince William has accused Bashir, and everyone at BBC for covering up the journalists deceits, eventually failing his mother. He also accused the media channel for leading his parents to a divorce.
"But what saddens me most, is that 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 just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions," he said in his statement.
"It is my firm view that the Panorama programme holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again. It effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialised by the BBC and others," he added.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, also released his separate statement wherein he blamed the 'ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices' for his mother's death. Prince Harry has sued multiple British tabloids and has expressed concern that his wife Meghan will be affected by the same media scrutiny that hurt his mother.
Prince Harry further stated, "To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step towards justice and truth. Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these - and even worse - are still widespread today. Then, and now, it's bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication."
After Lord Dyson's findings became public news, BBC Director-General Tim Davie, Hall's successor, released a statement that they accept Lord Dyson's findings. Taking cognisance of the accusations of deceit, the statement further said, "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." He also added that the BBC offers an unconditional apology.
Princess Diana died on 31 August 1997 from injuries she sustained in a car crash in Paris.