Look out for calls for Lord Hall, the former director general of the BBC, to be stripped of his CBE after a damning report criticised him for presiding over a “woeful” investigation into Martin Bashir’s use of deception to obtain a Panorama interview with Princess Diana. There is incredulity among MPs about Hall’s handling of the affair, and this weekend the pressure on him will intensify.
Hall, who left the BBC last summer, was director of BBC news and current affairs when the Diana interview was screened and later led an internal inquiry into Bashir’s use of forged documents in the run-up to the bombshell Panorama interview.
Hall cleared Bashir and concluded that he was an “honest and honourable man”, but an independent probe led by Lord Dyson into the BBC’s handling of the Panorama scandal concluded yesterday that Hall’s inquiry was “flawed and woefully ineffective”.
It said: “Without knowing Earl Spencer’s version of the facts; without receiving from Mr Bashir a credible explanation of what he had done and why he had done it; and in the light of his serious and unexplained lies, Lord Hall could not reasonably have concluded, as he did, that Mr Bashir was an honest and honourable man.”
The report goes on to say that the BBC “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark by covering up in its press logs such facts as it had been able to establish about how Mr Bashir secured the interview and failing to mention Mr Bashir’s activities or the BBC investigations of them on any news programme.”
Lord Hall was director of news and current affairs at the BBC from 1993 until 2001, when he became chief executive of the Royal Opera House. He returned to the BBC in 2013, and was director general when Martin Bashir was reemployed by the corporation in 2016 as a religion editor.
In response to Lord Dyson’s report, Hall said he was “wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt” and apologised that a BBC investigation “fell well short of what was required”.
In a statement broadcast last night, Prince William said it brought “indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly” to his mother’s “fear, paranoia and isolation” during her final years.
He said that the Princess had been failed “not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions”.
Lord Dyson’s report has raised questions about Hall’s role as chairman of the National Gallery, where Prince Charles is a royal patron.