The BBC has been rocked by the result of an inquiry led by Lord Dyson over the highly controversial Martin Bashir interview with Princess Dianna in 1995.
The BBC and Bashir have since apologised to both Prince William and Harry over their “deceitful” behaviour and launched a full review into their editorial and professional standards.
Broadcast on BBC One in November 1995, the ‘interview of the century’, was watched by 20 million people and was seen to be a huge exclusive story for the broadcasting company. Diana famously told Bashir that there were “three of us in the marriage”, referring to Camilla Parker Bowles, who is now the wife of Charles, Prince of Wales.
The inquiry found that the BBC were guilty of falling short of the “high standards of integrity and transparency” after it was revealed that Bashir falsified documents in order to obtain the interview.
Moreover, the inquiry exposed that Bashir blatantly breached BBC rules by producing fake bank statements to gain access to Diana. This access was enough for Bashir to gain the confidence of Diana to agree to an interview.
Unsurprisingly, the interview gained huge media traction at the time and as this increased the inquiry learned that the BBC covered up what they had discovered regarding Bashir’s misconduct.
The inquiries findings give merit to William and Harry’s mistrust of the media. Not so long ago, Harry, Duke of Sussex gave an interview of a similar explosive nature to Oprah in which he launched a scathing attack on the British media and claimed that the UK press were “destroying my mental health”.
William’s response was equally damaging to the reputation of the BBC. Describing Bashir as a “rogue reporter”, William has said the interview “hurt countless others” and has asked for the interview to never be aired again.
Bashir stepped down from the BBC on health grounds in May of this year and is one of the most well-known journalists in the UK. In an illustrious broadcasting career, Bashir also made headlines in 2003 after an interview with the late singer Michael Jackson. Jackson’s family, in light of these findings, have since called for a fresh investigation into the legitimacy of the interview.
What many find most concerning is the sheer lack of care the BBC had towards Diana and her family in what must have been a traumatic time for her and those close to her. Having been separated from Charles for some three years prior to the interview, Diana had somewhat less protection from those within the Royal household. This protection should have been at Diana’s aid and would have safeguarded her from Bashir’s advances.
It is anyone’s guess how the BBC tries to recover from this. The inquiry has exposed a series of failings on professional, editorial and, perhaps most importantly, moral grounds. William and Harry have been left feeling betrayed by their own national broadcaster and their trust in the media is almost non-existent. The same can be said for the general public. In an age of intense media scrutiny, perhaps the scrutiny needs to be placed more on the corporations which distribute the news. Public trust in the media has collapsed and many find it unacceptable for a national broadcast service, particularly that of the high-standing and regard of the BBC, to so blatantly “cover up” deceit and forgery of this nature.
What the UK needs, now more than ever, is a trustworthy media, free from political and personal affiliation to deliver the needs of the people. If balance is introduced and bias removed from our media, then perhaps this inquiry has a silver lining. All those involved in the UK press should strive for this and the effort must start now, and after this inquiry, the effort must be led by the BBC.