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There is growing pressure to reform the British Broadcasting Corporation, or BBC, following a report that found a journalist used lies and deceit to secure a famed 1995 television interview with Princess Diana.
The independent report, commissioned by the BBC and carried out by former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson, concluded that former BBC journalist Martin Bashir used “deceitful methods” to secure the Diana interview for the BBC’s Panorama program. Dyson also said the BBC botched an in-house investigation into the matter, which initially cleared Bashir of wrongdoing. Bashir, a former MSNBC journalist, resigned from the BBC last week on health grounds.
Both Bahir, and former director general Tony Hall, responsible for the international investigation, have admitted failings following Dyson’s report. The BBC has also publicly apologized.
But that might not be enough. Prince William, Diana’s son and the future king, has condemned the interview and the BBC’s actions in securing it, saying the Panorama report “contributed significantly” to the “fear, paranoia and isolation” of his mother in her final years. Prince William added that the Princess Diana interview should never be broadcast again and criticized BBC staff’s “woeful incompetence when investigating complaints.”
In response, to the report and Prince Williams’ comments, British culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said “further governance reforms” may be needed at the BBC. Former BBC chairman Lord Grade agreed. In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today show, he called for a distinct editorial board, populated by senior independent journalists to oversee the British public broadcaster.
“The BBC has got a lot of questions to answer on the way its journalism is structured,” he said.
The BBC only recently overhauled its governance structure. Four years ago, the current UK abolishing the BBC Trust, which had overseen the broadcaster, and set up a unitary board, handing more powers to government regulatory and competition authority Ofcom.
BBC director general Tim Davie, who has only been in the job a few months, said Thursday that the BBC today has “significantly better processes and procedures” than those that existed in 1995 when the Diana interview took place. But the network still has to address its first, botched investigation into the matter in 2016, when Tony Hall, director general until just last year, was in charge.
The British press has piled on, with tabloid The Daily Mail describing the publication of Dyson’s report as a “day of shame” for the BBC. The Times also led with the report and Prince William’s reaction to it. The news continued to lead local television and radio reports on Friday.
The BBC could also face legal action as a result of the inquiry. Mark Stephens, a media lawyer at law firm Howard Kennedy, told the i newspaper, the broadcaster would now ” now become the target of multi-million-pound lawsuits from those adversely impacted by Bashir’s deceit” such as Matt Wiessler, the graphic designer tasked with creating false documents for Bashir, and who became the whistle-blower for the whole affair.