Exclusive: Panorama to investigate itself over Princess Diana interview scandal
Diana, Princess of Wales, during her 1995 panoramic interview with Martin Bashir - Tim Graham / Corbis Historical
Panorama examines itself over Martin Bashir's interview with Princess Diana.
The flagship current affairs program has commissioned a documentary on Mr Bashir's conduct to secure his interview with the princess and subsequent allegations of company cover-up.
The program threatens to raise the view of the BBC to a level that even the satirists of comedy program W1A may not have dared.
John Ware, an award-winning journalist and a former Panorama reporter for 25 years, was brought in by BBC executives to conduct the investigation.
The program, expected to air in the New Year, examines the methods used by Mr Bashir, currently the BBC's religious affairs editor, to obtain the information, including fake bank statements, to convince Earl Spencer to introduce Mr Bashir to Princess Diana.
Mr Bashir is unlikely to ever appear on the BBC again, but he is currently ill with the aftermath of Covid-19 and quadruple cardiac bypass.
The interview, which aired in 1995, remains one of the biggest events on television and included Princess Diana's disclosure of "three people" in her marriage in a reference to the Prince of Wales' infidelity with Camilla Parker- Bowles.
A few months later, a Sunday newspaper revealed that Mr Bashir had ordered a BBC graphic artist to recreate bank statements that falsely showed that Earl Spencer's security chief was taking payments from a tabloid and offshore company.
The BBC investigated the allegations internally and led Tony Hall, then news chief, to effectively exonerate Mr. Bashir as an "honest man". This investigation will now fall under Panoramas withering gaze.
The BBC has used Panorama in the past to investigate itself - though never the program itself. Mr Ware had previously conducted an investigation into Andrew Gilligan's Today program's "sexed up" Iraq war report. Mr. Ware accused Greg Dyke, his then general manager, of "betting" on Mr. Gilligan's story without checking his notes. Mr. Dyke resigned shortly thereafter in January 2004.
Several sources have insisted that strict "walls" have been erected within the BBC to ensure that Panorama is treated like any other news agency. According to a source, Panorama received less help than rivals from the BBC when it tried to unravel events 25 years ago.
The Panorama program puts the company in a difficult position as it also has a duty of care towards employees and former employees, including Mr. Bashir and Lord Hall, who is now Chairman of the National Gallery's Board of Trustees. The appointment comes from Downing Street and was intended to severely criticize Panorama for its role in the alleged cover-up that would put pressure on the former CEO.
The BBC has opened a separate, judge-led, independent investigation led by Lord Dyson, a former Master of the Rolls. Lord Dyson has written to Earl Spencer asking for his cooperation. He hands over evidence that Earl says proves Mr. Bashir's deception. The investigation declined to say whether Earl Spencer or Mr. Bashir helped Lord Dyson.
Mr Ware declined to comment when approached by The Telegraph last week.
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