Princes Harry and William have criticised the BBC for its handling of an infamous 1995 Panorama interview between Princess Diana and journalist Martin Bashir.
Since it was released, and watched by 23 million viewers in the UK, it has become embedded in British culture and was one of the first real demystifications of the Royal Family.
John Birt, former Director General of the BBC, wrote in his memoir that the interview “marked the end of the BBC’s institutional reverence – though not its respect – for the monarchy.”
In the interview, Diana revealed the relationship difficulties between her and Prince Charles, including his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles and her affair with James Hewitt. While speaking to Bashir, Diana famously said regarding Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles that, “there were three of us in this marriage.”
She also discussed her experience of mental illness, including post-natal depression and severe bulimia and anorexia.
Now, the Dyson Inquiry has found that Bashir used “deceitful behaviour” to secure the interview with Diana.
According to her brother, Charles Spencer, Bashir used false documents to gain his trust, with the end goal of being introduced to Diana. Spencer has also alleged that Bashir made up rumours about the Royal Family to encourage Diana’s fears around them.
According to the report, Bashir also lied to his bosses a number of times about how he secured the interview, and that BBC managers themselves did not scrutinize his claims thoroughly enough.
The report found that, “without justification, the BBC fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark.”
Prince William shared a video denouncing the BBC, and calling for Panorama to be axed.
“It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her,” he said.
“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 also said that, in his view, “the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother has said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others.”
Prince Harry released a written statement where he said, “our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest.”
“The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practises ultimately took her life.”
“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.”
“Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed.”
The BBC has now written to Prince William to apologise.
Bashir has apologised for the false documents, but has defended his belief that he did not think the documents themselves led Diana to give the interview.
Significantly, the report found that Bashir “succeeded in engineering the meeting that led to the interview” through deceit, “but it is important to add that Princess Diana would probably have agreed to be interview.”
Image: BBC’s Panorama
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