Saturday, December 4

‘We will intervene to restore confidence in the BBC’ warn ministers | BBC


Ministers pledged on Saturday to intervene to restore confidence in the BBC by conducting a broader-than-anticipated review of its operations next year, as recriminations mounted for its controversial Panorama 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

The fallout from an independent report by Lord Justice Dyson on the program 26 years ago prompted the dramatic resignation on Saturday of the corporation’s former CEO, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, from his position as chairman of the National Gallery’s board of trustees.

After Princes William and Harry reacted to the Dyson report on Friday by publicizing their anger at the BBC’s behavior, ministers are expected to be called to the House of Commons on Monday to answer questions from MPs about the crisis.

A senior government figure who was closely involved in the weekend’s discussions with the BBC said that while governance rules had changed and improved since 1995, it would not be enough for ministers to simply step back and say that it is now. a different and improved institution.

“When there is a future king of England attacking the state broadcaster quite strongly, then you have to see that the government takes it seriously,” said a government minister. “While there is stronger internal governance now than then and stricter external regulation, there is a long way to go to change the culture of the BBC.”

Internal government sources said the midterm review of the BBC’s charter, which will begin next year, and which was previously intended as a mere “health check”, would be “tightened up” and would consider a variety of possible changes. structural, including the potential enhancement of the role of regulator Ofcom. Preparatory work for the review will begin immediately.

Another senior government source said: “Next year’s midterm charter review is an opportunity to strengthen the BBC’s governance arrangements if necessary. We will reflect carefully on Lord Dyson’s report, to ensure that recent reforms would avoid the dire failures that it points out.

“The reputation of the BBC has suffered a significant impact. We need to restore trust in him to make sure this never happens again. “

Dyson’s report on Martin Bashir’s conduct, released last week, found the journalist guilty of misleading the late princess and her brother, Earl Spencer, with a series of false documents and bank statements intended to suggest that several innocent people who they worked with them, they were selling stories. to the newspapers.

The hoax ultimately managed to secure Bashir’s position as the architect of one of the biggest media events of the decade. Diana’s heartfelt admission to Bashir that “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” went around the world.

Diana with Bashir seen from behind
Martin Bashir interviews Diana, Princess of Wales, at Kensington Palace for the BBC’s Panorama program in 1995. Photograph: Tim Graham / Corbis / Getty Images

Bashir was also found to have lied to BBC management about his behavior, before admitting to the fakes. Dyson’s report highlights how he was later protected by his bosses, including Hall, who said they believed he had acted in good faith in pursuit of a story of high public interest and that the forged documents had no direct involvement in the interview.

In a resignation statement from the National Gallery on Saturday, Hall said: “I have always had a strong sense of public service and it is clear that continuing in office would be a distraction to an institution that I care deeply about.”

Prince Charles became patron of the National Gallery in 2016.

As the aftermath continued, Richard Eyre, who served as a member of the BBC’s board of directors in the late 1990s, told the Observer who believed that another former CEO, John Birt, was implicated in mishandling the aftermath of Bashir’s interview.

Eyre, the film director and former director of the National Theater, said the BBC board was misled in 1996 when the results of an internal investigation into the Panorama the program was presented to them. He gave Bashir a certificate of good health and declared him “honorable.”

“You cannot tell me now that John Birt did not know, when Tony Hall first gave us that report on the allegations against Bashir, that what it contained was at least partially false,” he said. “The BBC leadership had an instinctive defense mechanism that was very, very strong.”

Claims that Bashir had used deception to gain trust were first made by BBC journalist Mark Killick and by Matt Wiessler, a freelance graphic designer who had made fake bank statements.

Wiessler claims that he believed he was recreating real documents to appear on screen in a documentary, but his suspicions were aroused by Bashir’s swashbuckling behavior. His attempt to raise the alarm was met with apparent disbelief from the BBC leadership.

Dyson’s report shows that Birt and Hall agreed that he should not be employed by the corporation again.

Last night, former Labor culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, who worked as a BBC reporter before becoming an MP, accused the BBC of a “culture of arrogance”.

“It is not good enough that the BBC ‘sources’ claim that Diana’s interview happened 25 years ago and that government and cultural changes since then mean that such egregious mistakes could not happen again. They have, through Gilligan / Hutton, Jimmy Savile, equal pay for women, Cliff Richard and less prominent cases. “

Bradshaw said the BBC should accept “for its own good and ours that self-regulation does not work” and argued that only completely independent regulation would work.

He added: “More immediately and urgently, the BBC itself must establish a robust system to support, rather than punish, whistleblowers.

“The treatment of the whistleblower of Diana’s interview, Matt Wiessler, whose career was ruined, has been shameful, but it was not and will not be the last until the BBC puts his house in order.

“The BBC also has immediate questions to answer about how the heck Mr. Bashir was rehired to the top post of religious affairs editor. This followed an undistinguished period outside the BBC, including in the US, and an extensive and comprehensive review by the BBC of its religious programming and coverage.

“I am not aware of any improvement or increase in the BBC’s religious affairs production following the appointment of Mr Bashir – in fact the opposite appears to have occurred.”


www.theguardian.com

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