United Kingdom

BBC stops Panorama team probing Martin Bashir's Diana interview having easy access to documents

The BBC Panorama team investigating how Martin Bashir obtained his notorious interview with Princess Diana have been left frustrated after the Corporation denied them easy access to even the most basic documents.

Journalists commissioned to produce a special edition of the programme that will scrutinise Bashir and the circumstances surrounding the interview – once hailed as the scoop of the century – have complained that BBC bosses are unwilling to co-operate.

Producers trying to access the BBC’s broadcasting guidelines from 1995, when the interview was broadcast, were told they would need to submit Freedom of Information requests – an arduous process that takes up to 20 working days for information to be provided.

The Corporation’s reluctance to co-operate with its own staff will raise concerns over its willingness to get to the bottom of the scandal.

The BBC Panorama team investigating how Martin Bashir obtained his notorious interview with Princess Diana (pictured) have been left frustrated after the Corporation denied them easy access to even the most basic documents

An inquiry into the affair launched by BBC director-general Tim Davie and headed by retired Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson has faced criticism from Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer. 

It is hoped that the separate Panorama-led inquisition, fronted by veteran journalist John Ware, could go some way to assuage public mistrust in the BBC.

The Mail on Sunday has also been told that Mr Ware was not the BBC’s first choice. Media Editor Amol Rajan was initially picked but Mr Ware, one of the Corporation’s most respected journalists, was ultimately preferred.

In the sensational interview, the Princess revealed there were ‘three people in my marriage’, a reference to her estranged husband’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall.

Journalists commissioned to produce a special edition of the programme that will scrutinise Bashir (pictured) and the circumstances surrounding the interview have complained that BBC bosses are unwilling to co-operate

Five months after the broadcast, The Mail on Sunday revealed that Mr Bashir had commissioned graphic designer Matt Wiessler to forge bank statements to convince Diana that her staff were leaking stories about her. 

The BBC launched its own investigation the following year, overseen by Tony Hall, then head of news and current affairs, who retired as director-general in August. 

The investigation concluded: ‘The BBC has been able, independently, to verify that these documents were put to no use which had any bearing, direct or indirect, on the Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales.’ 

But fresh publicity around the anniversary of the interview last year prompted Earl Spencer to call for another investigation.

In 2004 Mr Ware, who worked on Panorama between 1986 and 2012, examined the Today programme’s report into the death of Dr David Kelly. His Panorama programme, A Fight To The Death, triggered the Hutton Inquiry.

Mr Ware is likely to team up with the programme’s editor Rachel Jupp and producer Leo Telling on the investigation. 

Mr Bashir, the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent, is signed off sick after contracting Covid-19 and having a quadruple heart-bypass operation. He is unlikely to return.

The BBC did not comment on the Panorama investigation but a spokesman said: ‘The BBC will be co-operating fully with the independent investigation it has established, which it has appointed an eminent legal figure to lead.’

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