Former BBC Director General Lord Hall and Lord Birt will be questioned by MPs about the events leading up to Martin Bashir’s Panorama interview with Princess Diana.
They will also face questions about the broadcaster’s handling of investigations into how journalist Bashir, 58, obtained the World Exclusive in 1995.
A damning report from Lord Dyson recently condemned the methods used by Bashir to secure his interview, including using fake bank statements to encourage Diana’s brother Earl Spencer to introduce himself.
The report suggested that the BBC had failed to maintain ‘governance, accountability and scrutiny’ with its internal investigation conducted by Tony Hall in 1996 when he was the director of news and current affairs and John Birt director general.
Former BBC Director General Lord Hall (left) and Lord Birt (right) will be questioned by MPs about the events leading up to Martin Bashir’s Panorama interview with Princess Diana
A damning report from Lord Dyson recently condemned the methods Martin Bashir used to secure his 1995 interview with the Princess of Wales (above)
Lord Hall was Director General of the BBC from April 2013 to August 2020.
He was one of the bosses of companies attacked by Prince William in the aftermath of the interview for “looking the other way instead of asking tough questions.”
Last month, the colleague quit his government-backed job as chairman of the National Gallery after being criticized in Lord Dyson’s bombshell report.
Ministers had considered Lord Hall’s work at the National Gallery untenable given the museum’s close relationship with Prince Charles, the royal patron.
Lord Birt, who was director-general of the BBC from 1992 to 2000, was also criticized after the Panorama interview with Diana, taped without Buckingham Palace’s knowledge.
In May, it emerged that an ex-BBC chairman, Prince Charles “loyalist” Marmaduke Hussey, had immediately tried to force his resignation.
Current BBC Director-General Tim Davie and chairman Richard Sharp will also appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 15 June to testify on the implications of Lord Dyson’s conclusions.
Lord Hall was Director General of the BBC from April 2013 to August 2020. He was the Director of News and Current Affairs at the time of the interview
Lord Birt, the BBC’s director-general at the time of the interview, said: ‘We now know that the BBC harbored a rogue reporter on Panorama who made an extensive, detailed but completely inaccurate account of his dealings with Earl Spencer and Princess Diana. ‘
According to the report of former judge Lord Dyson, the BBC covered up Bashir’s “deceptive conduct” in obtaining the interview with Diana, and labeled Lord Hall’s 1996 internal investigation as “completely ineffective”.
False bank statements ordered by Bashir “tricked and seduced” Earl Spencer to help the journalist “arrange a meeting with Princess Diana,” it said.
His lies earned the Panorama reporter the interview of the century and multiple awards – but hastened the end of Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles and saw her stripped of her HRH status just two years before her death.
Ex-BBC chairman Marmaduke Hussey wanted John Birt to step down as director general over the Martin Bashir Panorama debacle
A former BBC chairman tried to force the director-general’s resignation over the interview with Princess Diana, it has emerged.
Marmaduke Hussey was shocked by the broadcaster’s secret Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales, recorded without Buckingham Palace’s knowledge.
He asked BBC governors to condemn the interview and conduct of then Director-General John Birt and sought to force his resignation.
Executives only told Lord Hussey about the interview at the last minute because they feared he would stop the broadcast. The Tory colleague resigned two months later, writing in his memoir that the episode “darked my last months at the BBC.”
He was known as a ‘loyalist’ to Prince Charles and had close ties to the royal family, as his wife Lady Susan is a lady-in-waiting to the Queen.
The decision not to tell Lord Hussey, who died in 2006, was discussed in a BBC documentary filmed on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Diana’s interview with journalist Martin Bashir.
Lord Birt told the 2005 BBC2 Arena documentary: ‘[Hussey] tried to get the governors to condemn the program, which they refused.
“When he failed, he tried to get the governors to condemn the way I had handled the program, especially the failure to warn him as president. He didn’t get what he wanted: a caustic reprimand that, he calculated, would force my resignation.’
The documentary, The Princess and Panorama, was shown to former High Court judge Lord Dyson as part of his investigation into the 1995 interview.
The BBC offered “full and unreserved apologies” for Bashir’s behavior and the subsequent cover-up in May.
The current Director General, Mr Davie, has contacted the Royal Family and: also returns all the awards the explosive interview garnered, including a Bafta TV gong won in 1996.
Diana’s friends have claimed she might still be alive today “if she hadn’t talked to Bashir,” whom they nicknamed “The Poison Dwarf” after his betrayal emerged, while Patrick Jephson, the Princess’s then private secretary of Wales, said a ‘line’ leads from her interview with Bashir to the night she died in 1997 in a car accident in Paris.
In his report, Lord Dyson, who conducted a six-month investigation, said: ‘Mr Bashir cheated on him and [Earl Spencer] to arrange a meeting with Princess Diana.
“By gaining access to Princess Diana in this way, Mr. Bashir was able to convince her to give the interview.
“This behavior was a serious breach of the 1993 edition of the BBC Producer Guidelines on straight deal.”
Lord Hall’s subsequent investigation in 1996 into claims that Diana had been misled by Bashir was “completely ineffective,” the judge said, largely because their investigation “did not investigate” Bashir, even though he knew he had lied three times about showing of the fake bank statements to Earl Spencer.
“Lord Hall could not reasonably have concluded, as he did, that Mr Bashir was an honest and honorable man,” the report said.
The BBC had “without justification” “covered up” Mr Bashir’s tricks and “as a result failed to meet the high standards of integrity and transparency that are its hallmark,” Lord Dyson said.
Lord Birt, the BBC’s director-general at the time of the interview, said: ‘We now know that the BBC harbored a rogue reporter on Panorama who made an extensive, detailed but completely inaccurate account of his dealings with Earl Spencer and Princess Diana. .
This is a shocking stain on the BBC’s abiding commitment to honest journalism, and it is a matter of deep regret that it has taken 25 years for the full truth to come out.
“As Director General at the time, I offer my sincere apologies to Earl Spencer and everyone else affected.”
Lord Hall insisted his ‘integrity’ remained intact despite the criticism, pointing the finger at the shamed journalist and saying he was ‘wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt’.
He had previously apologized to Bashir for having the false statements produced, calling him an “honest and honorable man.”
However, Lord Hall has since admitted that his 1996 inquiry “didn’t meet the requirements.”
But a rebellious Mr Bashir said in a statement last month: “This is the second time that I have voluntarily cooperated fully in an investigation into events from more than 25 years ago.
“I apologized then, and I do so again now, for asking for counterfeit bank statements.
“It was a stupid thing to do and it was an action I deeply regret. But I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again recently.”