Prince William has criticised the BBC for its handling of a 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, after a report found that journalist Martin Bashir had used deception to obtain the interview. The Prince said the details of the deception had contributed to the worsening of his parents’ relationship and “contributed significantly” to his mother’s “fear, paranoia, and isolation” in the last years of her life.
The Dyson Inquiry had found that Bashir, who has now left the BBC, had used “deceitful behaviour” to obtain the landmark interview with Diana, namely mocking up fake bank statements to show to the Princess of Wales’s brother, Earl Spencer, in order to gain access to the Royal and ultimately persuading her to take part in the interview. The bogus invoices had suggested at the time that people were being paid to keep Diana under surveillance.
Not only were the actions in breach of BBC’s code of conduct, but the inquiry found that the public broadcaster had covered up the journalist’s behaviour. The report also criticised the BBC’s 1996 investigation into the series of events that led to the interview as inadequate.
Reacting to the report, Prince William, the second in line to the throne, condemned BBC employees for having “lied and used fake documents” and for making “lurid and false claims” about the Royal Family, which ultimately contributed to his mother’s “fear, paranoia, and isolation” before her untimely death in August 1997.
A statement on today’s report of The Dyson Investigation pic.twitter.com/uS62CNwiI8
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) May 20, 2021
Criticising the broadcaster’s treatment of the incident in subsequent months and years, the Duke of Cambridge said that had the BBC properly investigated complaints and concerns when first raised, “my mother would have known that she had been deceived. She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders of the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions.”
“It effectively established a false narrative which for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialised by the BBC and others,” Prince William said, adding that the failings of the BBC had let down his mother, his family, and the British public.
The BBC has since apologised to Prince William, Prince Harry, and Earl Spencer.
— Defund The BBC (@DefundBBC) May 20, 2021
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge said during his statement, in full:
I would like to thank Lord Dyson and his team for the report. It is welcomed that the BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full, which are extremely concerning: that BBC employees lied and used fake documents to obtain the interview with my mother; made lurid and false claims about the Royal Family, which played on her fears and fueled paranoia; displayed woeful incompetence when investigating complaints and concerns about the programme; and were evasive in their reporting to the media, and covered up what they knew from their internal investigation.
It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse, and has since hurt countless others.
It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia, and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.
But what saddens me most, is 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 of the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions.
It is my firm view that this Panorama programme holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again. It effectively established a false narrative which for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialised by the BBC and others. This settled narrative now needs to be addressed by the BBC and anyone else who has written, or intends to write, about these events.
In an era of fake news, public service broadcasting and a free press have never been more important. These failings, identified by investigative journalists, not only let my mother down and my family down, they let the public down, too.
Prince Harry also responded to the report, saying that “the ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her [Diana’s] life”.
“To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step towards justice and truth. Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these – and even worse – are still widespread today. Then, and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication. Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed,” the Duke of Sussex concluded.
Does anyone seriously still believe that anyone in Britain with a “TV set”should be forced to pay – under threat of criminal sanction – £157 pa to the BBC? This racket is over. Surely? pic.twitter.com/jSbVtlH8Lh
— Mark Littlewood (@MarkJLittlewood) May 21, 2021