Ofcom have written the BBC after it was announced that the channel is launching a probe into Martin Bashir’s interview with Princess Diana.
In light of the BBC asking Lord Dyson to independently investigate what happened, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom penned a lengthy letter to the to Director-General of the organisation Tim Davie.
In the letter, Ofcom’s Melanie Dawes urged Davie to ensure that claims about the interview are “investigated thoroughly” and added that “it is important that the BBC holds itself to account, openly and transparently.”
In the two-paged document – that has been shared on the Ofcom website – Melanie warned the BBC that the organisation “will follow the inquiry and its conclusions closely” as they are unable to investigate themselves due to Ofcom not having the “regulatory remit to investigate these issues under the Charter.”
The letter was addressed to Tim and had a subject headline reading: “BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana, 20 November 1995.”
It began: “I am writing about the recent publicity surrounding the BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana.
“Ofcom received a complaint from David Hooper asking us to launch an investigation into EarlSpencer’s allegations that Princess Diana was induced to participate in the interview as a result of deceptive practices on the part of Martin Bashir.
“We have replied to Mr Hooper explaining that, as Ofcom does not have regulatory remit to investigate these issues under the Charter, we will not be launching our own investigation. I enclose copies of this correspondence for your information. However, we think it is essential that the BBC ensures that the concerns raised about this programme are investigated thoroughly.
“As you know, under the BBC Charter and Agreement, the BBC Board has responsibility for BBC internal governance, staffing and management issues.”
She added: “The BBC Board is also responsible for ensuring the BBC fulfils its Mission and Public Purposes and complies with its obligations under the Charter, Agreement, Operating Framework and general law. These responsibilities include ensuring good corporate governance is observed when responding to allegations about misconduct by current or past employees of the BBC.
“They also include ensuring that, in any response to such allegations, the BBC complies with its general duties under the Charter to observe high standards of openness and seek to maximise transparency and accountability. 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.
“As we found in our BBC News Review1, 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.
“We are also pleased that the findings of this inquiry will be published. We will follow the inquiry and its conclusions closely. In the interests of transparency, we will be publishing this letter, the Hooper complaint, and our reply on Ofcom’s website later today.”
Mirror Online have contacted the BBC for comment.
In 1995 Diana took part in a Panorama interview which was watched by nearly 23 million people
In the interview Diana told reporter Martin Bashir ‘there were three people in the marriage’ as she hinted at Princess Charles’ affair with his now wife Camilla Parker Bowles, which led to a furore that culminated in their divorce.
Diana’s brother Earl Spencer recently made claims that he was shown false financial documents by Bashir so that the then Panorama reporter could gain access to the royal in 1995.
Bashir is alleged to have used a BBC graphic designer to create fake bank statements that he claimed was proof courtiers were selling stories about Diana’s private life.
He also allegedly told her that her phone was tapped by MI5, her bodyguard was plotting against her and that close friends were betraying her.
BBC boss Tim previously told in a statement that Bashir was currently signed off work and was too ill to give a comment about the claims.
He added at the time: “The BBC has made clear it will investigate the issues raised and that this will be independent.
“We will set out the terms of reference in due course. We will do everything possible to get to the bottom of this.
“Martin Bashir is signed off work by his doctors as he is currently recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and has significant complications from having contracted Covid-19 earlier in the year.”
An internal investigation into Bashir’s conduct carried out by the BBC in 1996 found that the fake bank statements had not helped the journalist gain the interview.
After it was announced that Lord Dyson would be heading up the important probe, he said: “This is an important investigation which I will start straight away. I will ensure it is both thorough and fair.”
Lord Dyson has appointed Fieldfisher LLP as solicitors to the independent investigation.
The firm also worked on the inquest into to the deaths of Diana and Dodi Al Fayed.