The BBC’s governing body has launched an investigation into the culture of its news operation, as ministers said the circumstances of Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana, the Princess of Wales, could be used to justify reforming the station. National.
The BBC board said it was confident that the corporation’s internal processes had improved in the period since Bashir used bogus invoices to gain the trust of Diana’s brother in an attempt to secure a Panorama interview with royalty.
However, he felt that an investigation was required to make sure managers are meeting high standards. The board said: “We must not simply assume that the mistakes of the past cannot be repeated today, we must ensure that this is the case.”
An independent report by Lord Dyson last week found multiple flaws in the way Bashir secured his interview with Diana, prompting damning statements from both Prince William and Prince Harry about BBC culture.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said research into how the BBC handled Bashir’s 1995 interview could be used to justify “cultural change” at the corporation.
The Dyson report came at an uncomfortable time for the broadcaster, which is already grappling with media startups that are winning over its audience as they fight a hostile government that has made repeated threats to change its funding and governance.
The BBC is also about to begin negotiations on the next five-year license fee agreement, which will decide how much money the corporation will have to spend starting in 2022.
The BBC board, overseen by the BBC’s chairman and government-appointed conservative donor Richard Sharp, has appointed a three-person team to investigate the corporation’s editorial policies.
The group includes Sir Robbie Gibb, Theresa May’s former communications director, who was appointed to the board this month by Dowden. Gibb is a former director of BBC political programming who later became a vocal critic of some of the corporation’s news and helped establish the upcoming GB News channel.
The other two members of the panel are Sir Nicholas Serota and former BBC News chief Ian Hargreaves.
“The board will consider the culture of the BBC as part of its mandate to assess the effectiveness of policy and practice,” said a spokesman.
One particular area of concern raised by the report is the culture around the BBC’s whistleblowers and whether people are being punished for raising concerns about the behavior of other staff members.
Matt Wiessler, the BBC graphic designer who scoffed at the fake bank statements on Bashir’s orders, said he found his career cut short after raising concerns about the activity.
Last week, he told The Guardian that he had been made the “scapegoat” to protect Bashir’s reputation and found himself blacklisted for not working for the BBC after expressing concern about what had happened.
He said: “I have a great life now, but for 20 years I did not. I became a homeless man in the West Country. I had the bailiffs at my door because I couldn’t pay my bills. I want the BBC to think: if I were this man, how would I want to be treated now?
The National Union of Journalists said it welcomed the BBC board’s investigation into how the corporation treats whistleblowers, but said the corporation needed to fight for its future.
It said: “The BBC must act with firmness and complete transparency, and not allow the interference of those who seek to exploit this crisis for their own ends.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism