A review into the decision to rehire Martin Bashir at BBC following his interview with Princess Diana found “no evidence” that the journalist was given the job to “cover up” the events surrounding the 1995 programme.
Mr Bashir was hired as religious affairs correspondent at the BBC in 2016 – despite serious questions having been raised over his now-notorious Panorama interview.
Ken MacQuarrie, who conducted the review into the re-hiring, said: “In my view, the recruitment process for the religious affairs correspondent was targeted at finding the right person for the role.”
He added: “I have found no evidence that Martin Bashir was re-hired to contain and/or cover up the events surrounding the 1995 Panorama programme. In my view, that theory is entirely unfounded.”
Last month Lord Dyson’s report found a “serious breach” of editorial rules leading up to the Panorama programme, condemning the methods Mr Bashir used to secure his bombshell interview in 1995 – including using fake bank statements.
The Dyson report also found the breach of editorial rules was later covered up, and also criticised a “woefully ineffective” 1996 BBC investigation into the way the interview was secured.
“None of the individuals involved in the recruitment of Martin Bashir had knowledge of all of the matters contained in the Dyson report,” said Mr MacQuarrie.
“I have no doubt that if any of the individuals involved in the appointment of Martin Bashir in 2016 had been aware of what is now publicly known as a result of the Dyson report, Martin Bashir would have never been reappointed to the BBC.”
Mr MacQuarrie conceded there were “some shortcomings” in the process by which Mr Bashir was re-employed, but said he was satisfied he was ultimately appointed because “his knowledge and experience were considered to be the best match”.
The report found that Lord Tony Hall, the former director-general of the BBC who led the 1996 investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Panorama interview, did not play a part in the decision to rehire Mr Bashir.
Former BBC director-general Lord Hall
“Some individuals appear to have been of the view that the director-general had sanctioned the appointment,” Mr MacQuarrie review found. “I have seen no evidence to support the idea that there was sign-off of Martin Bashir by Tony Hall prior to the appointment.”
Thanking Mr MacQuarrie for his review, the BBC’s new director-general Tim Davie said: “It finds the recruitment process was targeted to find the right person for the role and it was conducted in good faith.
He added: “While the report finds processes were largely followed at the time, it is clear we need to reflect on the findings to ensure consistent best practice is applied in our recruitment.
“Finally, it is without doubt that had the organisation been aware of what is now publicly known because of the Dyson report Martin Bashir would have never been reappointed.”