BBC announces to probe Princess Diana’s 1995 interview. But why? [VIDEO]
What happened in the Panorama interview of 1995?
- The British network ITV, claims that host Martin Bashir used dishonest tactics to persuade Princess Diana to give the (landmark) interview in 1995.
- Princess Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, wrote a letter to Tim Davie, the current director-general of the BBC, asking for an independent inquiry into the matter.
- On Wednesday, BBC announced the formal opening of an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the Princess Diana interview.
Princess Diana’s interview with BBC Panorama first aired on the 20th of November 1995. The British media described the interview as one that “plunged the monarchy into the greatest crisis since the Abdication (King Edward VIII abandoning his throne in 1936 to marry an American divorcee)”. In the interview, the Wales’ Princess bared her heart about her marriage and relationship with the royal family. Princess Diana’s first solo interview was watched by an estimated 23 million people who called it the ‘scoop of the century’.
Twenty-five years later, the landmark interview has come under scrutiny as the journalist and interviewer, Martin Bashir, faces charges of having secured the interview through unethical means. Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer’s allegations, further prompted the investigation.
On Wednesday, the BBC announced an investigation and promised to get to the truth about how the media outlet got the interview with Princess Diana. The corporation has appointed former Supreme Court judge John Dyson to lead the probe.
What happened in the Panorama interview of 1995?
In the 55-minute long interview session, the 34-year-old strained-looking Diana poured her heart out about the disappointments with her marriage. The interviewer, Bashir, asked Diana about how prepared she was for the pressures of marrying into the royal family. Referring to Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, Princess Diana replied:
Well, there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.
In the interview, she admitted to having been unfaithful to Charles in a five-year-long affair with cavalry officer James Hewitt. Diana spoke about suffering from bulimia and postnatal depression and the impact it had on her marriage by saying:
It gave everybody an excellent new label – Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately, that seems to have stuck on and off over the years.
A lengthy discussion took place on the impact that excessive media coverage had on her mental health and marriage:
Anything good I ever did, nobody ever said a thing, never said, `well done’, or `was it OK?’ But if I tripped up, which invariably I did, everyone had a lot to say.
Towards the end of the session, Bashir asked Diana why she chose to give him this interview, to which she replied:
Because Charles and I will have been separated three years this December, and the perception that has been given of me for the last three years has been very confusing, turbulent, and in some areas, I’m sure many, many people doubt me.
The Princess clarified that she had no resentment or desire to get back at her husband and hoped to have a future for herself and her husband and the monarchy.
Within a month of the explosive interview airing, Diana’s press secretary resigned. The angry Queen sent a letter to Princess Diana and Charles, urging them to agree to an early divorce.
What are the allegations against BBC regarding the Prince Diana interview?
Earlier this month, a two-part documentary titled ‘The Diana interview: Revenge of a princess’ aired on British network ITV, claiming that Bashir had used dishonest tactics to persuade Diana to give the interview. The documentary carries a testament of the BBC Panorama interview’s graphic designer, Matt Weissler, who claimed:
Bashir asked me to mock up bank statements that showed that royal employees close to the Princess were being paid to spy on her. These bank statements were presented to win the trust of the Princess.
The ITV documentary maintained that Diana feared that MI5 was spying on her. Therefore, the fake bank statements showing payments of £10,500 to the former head of security for Earl Spencer from a publisher were aimed at exploiting these insecurities.
It should be noted that allegations of impropriety had arisen at the time of the interview’s airing too. According to reports, Bashir had gone into hiding the weekend the interview was aired. The BBC had investigated the allegations in 1996, and Bashir was cleared of all charges by the then news chief, Tony Hall.
Alongside the documentary’s airing, Diana’s brother wrote a letter to Tim Davie, the current director-general of the BBC, asking for an independent inquiry. In the letter, he wrote:
I am not formally asking the BBC to open an inquiry into this matter, and I hope it will get to the bottom of critical questions: Why did Tony Hall’s investigation not seek the truth from me? Why did it bend over backward to whitewash Bashir? Who else knew the extent of his yellow journalism when securing what Hall calls ‘the interview of the decade or the generation?
Spencer further wrote:
Had it not been for those bank statements, I would not have introduced Bashir to my sister.
As per a Daily Mail report, Spencer has also produced evidence of a letter written to him by Bashir. In the alleged letter, the journalist further pressures him and Diana to cooperate by referencing false rumors about her children’s nanny having ‘recurring intimacy’ with a ‘particular individual’.
In reply to Spencer’s allegations, Davie said:
The BBC is determined to get to the truth about these events, and that is why we have commissioned an independent investigation. The investigation would seek to answer questions on what steps the BBC and Bashir took to obtain the interview and whether they were in line with the BBC’s editorial standards of the time, to what extent did the actions of Bashir influence Diana’s decision, what knowledge did the BBC have in 1995 and 1996 about the forged bank statements and how effectively had the BBC investigated the circumstances leading to the interview.
It is pertinent to mention that 57-year-old Bashir is now the religion editor of BBC news. Currently, he is recovering from heart surgery and complications from COVID-19. Therefore, he hasn’t replied to Spencer’s allegations yet.
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