BBC cover-up over Martin Bashir’s Princess Diana interview shows need for overhaul at broadcaster

The News Letter editorial from Saturday, May 22.
News Letter editorialNews Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The BBC’s reputation as an upholder of strict journalistic standards has never appeared muddier.

The publication of a report by Lord Dyson into the circumstances surrounding the BBC’s securing of a Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1995 isn’t just devastating about the reporter concerned, Martin Bashir.

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More significantly, the report also concludes that the public service broadcaster went out of its way to conceal the truth from the public about how Bashir faked the documents that induced Earl Spencer to introduce him to his sister, Diana.

That it has taken 25 years for the truth to emerge is a damning indictment about how this matter has been handled by the senior BBC executives. It’s clear that the BBC’s failure to come clean about what Mr Bashir did is every bit as serious as the deception carried out by the reporter.

The BBC has long been under pressure in relation to the cost of its licence fee and the report from Lord Dyson will further damage the public’s trust in the broadcaster.

Prince William’s public statement made for emotionally charged viewing. The BBC not only let him and his family down, but also the public.

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The BBC must start an overhaul of its processes, with the mooted appointment of a new editorial board to deal with complaints about its programmes an important first step. It faces an uphill task to restore public trust.