Damning report | 

If the BBC micro-manage me how did they allow Martin Bashir deliberately mislead Princess Diana?

Lord Dyson’s report was clear, concise and damning.
Martin Bashir (Ian West/PA)

Martin Bashir (Ian West/PA)

Fr Brian Darcy

I was convinced at one time that the Catholic Church was the most deceitful, cowardly and unjust institution in the world.

The way we allowed the blatant abuse of children was disgusting.

The biggest lie of all was that the ‘good’ name of the institution was deemed more important than the welfare of thousands of innocent children.

That’s how trust is broken. We will never be forgiven, nor should we be.

Since then I have learned an even more shocking lesson. It’s not just the churches who deceive us. All major institutions do the same thing.

The more pompous the institution, the more untouchable they believe they are.

I know of no corporation who had the courage to put the welfare of children before their own image in matters of sexual abuse. How many would put morality ahead of financial gain?

Take the BBC, for example.

Who in their wildest dreams could imagine that a journalist on Panorama would deceive an obviously vulnerable member of the British royal family just to get an exclusive interview?

Princess Diana was known to be staggering through the break-up of her marriage to the future king of England.

She was encouraged to believe she was being spied upon and lied to by the royal family; her paranoia was manipulated for the sake of an exclusive interview.

No wonder Diana’s sons are so angry at what happened to their mother.

Diana, Princess of Wales, during her interview with Martin Bashir (BBC/PA)

Diana, Princess of Wales, during her interview with Martin Bashir (BBC/PA)

William put it forcefully: “What saddens me most is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived.

"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.”

Lord Dyson’s report was clear, concise and damning.

He concluded that the BBC’s star journalist lied to her and that the BBC’s investigation was “woefully inadequate”; that it covered up this appalling behaviour for 26 years — all the while hypocritically pointing the finger at other media outlets.

The underlying implication is that this is not a once-off journalistic lapse.

I must come clean; I have worked for the BBC for well over 30 years and I still do. I’m a non-entity really. Yet my work is repeatedly checked and re-checked before it’s broadcast.

I have no problem with that. If they find something unacceptable, catch it before it goes on air.

Thankfully I have never caused them a problem.

If they micro-manage me how come they allowed Martin Bashir to deliberately mislead a vulnerable woman caught in the headlights of a media storm? Not only that, but like the Church, they covered up the truth for 26 years.

Lord Dyson clearly found that the cover-up will cause even greater damage to the BBC’s reputation. “I am satisfied that the BBC covered up in its press logs such facts as it had been able to establish about how Mr Bashir secured the interview,” Dyson reported.

Lord Dyson (Yui Mok/PA)

Lord Dyson (Yui Mok/PA)

The effects will be devastating to the BBC’s reputation and to the

hundreds of honest journalists who have scrupulously worked to the highest ethical standards down through the years. It is the ultimate insult to us. We too have been betrayed by the BBC’s failings.

As C.P. Scott said many years ago “Comments are free…but facts are sacred.”

It is not the only time the BBC has been found wanting. Remember how Jimmy Saville was untouchable for decades as he used his celebrity status to abuse the most vulnerable of children. The BBC protected Saville and not the children for years.

Think of what the BBC did to Cliff Richard. It would have destroyed a lesser man. Cliff had the courage, the contacts and the means to take them on and win.

Every decent worker in the BBC was on Cliff’s side.

Hard working journalists realised that what done to Cliff was wrong, just as every decent worker is relieved that Lord Dyson has, once and for all, put the facts of Martin Bashir’s shocking behaviour within his 127-page report.

And don’t forget the agonising pain they allowed to happen to Andrew Sachs — the wonderful Manuel of Fawlty Towers. The BBC has form in these matters.

There is an appendix to this sad story of deceit. The person who brought Bashir’s behaviour to the notice of the BBC, Matt Weissler, a freelance graphic designer, lost his job. Is there still institutional hostility towards whistle-blowers at the BBC?

Put simply, it is clear that this is not a story about a rogue reporter. Is there a cultural indifference to proper standards of journalism within the Corporation? That is a question which has to be answered honestly and immediately because the BBC is much too important to broadcasting for it to left in abeyance.

Finally, what I find utterly unbelievable is that the BBC re-employed Bashir in 2016. He was a reporter within Religion and Ethics. In fact he was a religion editor until he left in mid-May, just before Lord Dyson’s report was published.

What does that say about the BBC’s attitude to Religion and Ethics?

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