TV watchdog will follow Diana Panorama interview investigation ‘closely’

TV watchdog Ofcom will not launch its own investigation into the BBC Panorama controversy, but says it will follow the independent inquiry “closely”.

The BBC has appointed a retired judge, Lord Dyson, former Master of the Rolls, to lead an investigation into the Diana, Princess of Wales scoop.

The Duke of Cambridge has welcomed the investigation, saying it “should help establish the truth behind the actions” that led to the programme.

Ofcom said it “does not have regulatory remit to investigate” the issues under the charter.

“However, we think it is essential that the BBC ensures that the concerns raised about this programme are investigated thoroughly,” it said in a letter to the broadcaster.

“One of the BBC’s public purposes is to ensure that its news and factual content is provided to the ‘highest editorial standards’.

“It is important that the BBC holds itself to account, openly and transparently, in relation to historic allegations of failing to achieve those standards.

“This is necessary to maintain trust and confidence in the BBC’s journalism and editorial practices.”

It added: “Historic events can have a long-term effect on the way the BBC’s content is perceived today.

“Therefore, we welcome your announcement yesterday of a fully independent inquiry, to be led by Lord Dyson, into the events surrounding the making of the original programme, as well as the BBC’s investigation of it in 1995 and 1996.

Martin Bashir
Martin Bashir

“We will follow the inquiry and its conclusions closely,”

The BBC said the investigation will begin straight away and seek to discover what steps the broadcaster and Martin Bashir took to land the interview.

William responded to the BBC announcement, saying: “The independent investigation is a step in the right direction. It should help establish the truth behind the actions that led to the Panorama interview and subsequent decisions taken by those in the BBC at the time.”

The investigation comes after Diana’s brother Earl Spencer alleged that he was shown “false bank statements” by Bashir and they were used to help the reporter gain access to the princess.

The result was the explosive interview 25 years ago in which Diana famously said: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

The BBC says Diana had written a note saying she did not see the false bank statements and they played no part in her decision to give the interview.

Earl Spencer
Earl Spencer

The investigation will consider if the steps taken by the BBC and Bashir were appropriate and to what extent those actions influenced Diana’s decision to give an interview.

It will also investigate what knowledge the BBC had in 1995 and 1996 of “mocked up bank statements purporting to show payments to a former employee of Earl Spencer (and) the purported payments to members of the Royal Households”, the corporation said.

The graphic designer who mocked up the documents allegedly used to secure the interview has said he was made “the fall guy” by the BBC, and called on the broadcaster to apologise.

The BBC said Bashir, who is now its religion editor, is currently signed off from work, recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and with significant complications from having contracted Covid-19 earlier in the year.

The princess sent shockwaves through the monarchy with the interview, which included candid details about her marriage and the Prince of Wales’s rumoured relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, his now wife.

Diana also questioned Charles’s suitability as king.

A month later, the Queen urged the separated couple to divorce, which they did in 1996.

The princess died in 1997 in a car crash in Paris.