BBC faces Dyson report on Princess Diana ‘Panorama’ interview, C4 slates follow-up doc

UK pubcaster Channel 4 has slated The Diana Interview: The Truth Behind the Scandal — a follow-up to Blink Films’ Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview, which aired in October ...
May 21, 2021

UK pubcaster Channel 4 has slated The Diana Interview: The Truth Behind the Scandal — a follow-up to Blink Films’ Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview, which aired in October of last year — for May 29.

The follow-up, also from London-based Blink, comes as the BBC is facing great scrutiny for its journalistic practices in the wake of an inquiry led by retired British judge Lord Dyson, which determined there was a “covering up” regarding how then-BBC journalist Martin Bashir obtained an interview with Princess Diana for current affairs strand ‘Panorama’ in 1995.

The report states that Bashir not only forged bank statements in order to procure the interview — something he has since admitted to and apologized for — but that the BBC’s own internal probe into the affair was “woefully inadequate.” According to the report, Bashir showed the fake documents to Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother, in order to gain trust and access, but subsequently denied having done so when questioned by BBC top brass in a 1996 inquiry into the interview.

Renewed attention to the affair arrived last year, with several documentaries that aired in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the interview. They included Blink’s doc, as well as C5′s Diana: The Interview that Shocked the World from Rogan Productions, and Minnow Films’ The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess, which featured an interview with Matt Wiessler, a graphic designer turned whistleblower who alleged he was asked to craft the documents by Bashir and that the BBC effectively blacklisted him following the 1996 inquiry.

The original Blink documentary was written and directed by Andy Webb, who had requested documents regarding the ‘Panorama’ interview via the UK’s Freedom of Information Act in 2007, and was only granted access to them 48 hours prior to the doc’s air date on C4. While he wasn’t able to use the material in the first doc, according to a column he wrote for the UK’s Daily Mail on May 20, he did share it with Charles Spencer, who subsequently issued tweets regarding his thoughts on the BBC’s role in the affair, citing Webb’s work.

Webb also wrote and directed the follow-up doc airing on C4 on May 29.

Bashir was, most recently, religion editor for the BBC before heĀ stepped down from the post a week ago due to “ongoing health issues.”

In a statement issued on May 20 regarding the Dyson report, current BBC director-general Tim DavieĀ thanked Lord Dyson for his report into the 1995 interview, calling it thorough and comprehensive. Davie said the BBC accepts Dyson’s findings in full.

“Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings,” Davie said in the statement.

“While today’s BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way. The BBC should have made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew.

“While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”

The UK pubcaster has also returned a BAFTA award that was given to the ‘Panorama’ episode in 1996.

Photo of Princess Diana by Newsmakers/Getty Images

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.