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BBC damaged its reputation in Princess Diana interview scandal

What went wrong? And how is BBC responding?

In this Nov. 21, 1995, file photo, a selection of front pages of most of Britain’s national newspapers showing their reaction to Princess Diana’s television interview with BBC journalist Martin Bashir.
In this Nov. 21, 1995, file photo, a selection of front pages of most of Britain’s national newspapers showing their reaction to Princess Diana’s television interview with BBC journalist Martin Bashir.
Martin Cleaver, Associated Press

On Thursday, an independent report found that BBC used “deceitful” methods before and after its iconic 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana. The scandal has blown up, highly damaging BBC’s reputation, Reuters reported.

  • Monday, U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said, “The BBC must act quickly to restore trust and reassure the country that it will shine a light on any other areas falling short of the high standards we rightly expect from it,” Fox News reported.
  • “The BBC needs to improve its culture to ensure that this never happens again and that means a new emphasis on accuracy, impartiality and diversity of opinion,” Dowden said via Fox News.

The report and public backlash come at a sensitive time for BBC, said Reuters. The publicly funded media outlet has a midterm review of its royal charter next year. The royal charter is an agreement between BBC and the U.K. government regarding the publication’s funding and running, reported BBC.

What’s the Princess Diana interview scandal?

Thursday, Lord John Dyson released a 127-page report investigating the conditions surrounding Princess Diana’s 1995 Panorama interview. The investigation began in November 2020 after Diana’s brother, Earl Charles Spencer, complained of dishonest tactics being used to manipulate him and Diana, Fox News reported.

Immediately after the 1995 Panorama documentary aired, Matt Weissler, the graphic designer whom Bashir commissioned to create the bank statements, brought his concerns to BBC management, reported Fox News. In response, BBC management stopped giving Weissler work and knowingly covered up Bashir’s wrongdoings.

How is BBC responding?

Monday, the BBC board put out a statement fully accepting the findings of the Dyson report and reiterating an apology. According to Reuters, the board also stated that it will be reviewing editorial policies and the robustness of whistleblower processes.

  • “We must not just assume that mistakes of the past cannot be repeated today — we must make sure that this is the case,” the board said in a statement, according to Reuters.