The BBC has appointed a former senior judge to head an inquiry into how the broadcaster secured a famous 1995 interview with the late Princess Diana following accusations from her brother that she had been tricked into taking part.
Earlier in November, her brother Charles Spencer said the BBC had failed to apologise for what he said were forged documents and “other deceit” that led him to introduce Diana to journalist Martin Bashir.
During her interview with Bashir, watched by more than 20 million viewers in Britain, Diana shocked the country by admitting to an affair and giving intimate details of her failed marriage to heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles.
Nearly 23 million people tuned in to watch the Panorama interview, recorded on November 20, 1995.
In the interview Diana famously said that “there were three of us in this marriage”, referring to the Prince of Wales’ relationship with the then Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Diana was separated from Charles at the time, but not yet divorced.
The BBC’s director-general, Tim Davie, said the broadcaster was determined to get to the truth about Spencer’s claims.
“This is an important investigation which I will start straight away,” said John Dyson, the former Supreme Court justice appointed to lead the inquiry.
“I will ensure it is both thorough and fair.”
On Thursday (Australian time), Diana’s oldest son and heir to the throne Prince William released a statement saying he welcomed the BBC investigation.
“The independent investigation is a step in the right direction,” William said.
“It should help establish the truth behind the actions that led to the Panorama interview and subsequent decisions taken by those in the BBC at the time.”
Earl Spencer has said Bashir made a series of allegations to him and his sister, including that Diana was being bugged by the security services and that two senior aides were being paid to provide information about her.
He said Bashir provided fake bank statements to back up the claim.
Others involved in making the program have also come forward to say the BBC covered up wrongdoing.
Bashir has made no public comment to media and the BBC says the journalist – who gained global renown from the Diana interview and is now the corporation’s religious affairs correspondent – is on sick leave, recovering from heart surgery and from contracting COVID-19.
The BBC said its investigation would examine five questions. They would include what steps the BBC and Bashir took to obtain the interview, “including (i) the mocked-up bank statements purporting to show payments to a former employee of Earl Spencer (ii) the purported payments to members of the royal households and (iii) the other matters recently raised by Earl Spencer”.