Princes Harry and William have responded to the explosive findings of an independent inquiry into the BBC’s infamous 1995 Panorama interview with their mother, Princess Diana.
The investigation was centred on British journalist Martin Bashir and his use of forged bank documents to secure access to the princess in the now-iconic sit-down, in which Diana claimed there were “three of us in the marriage.” Bashir, who was serving as the corporation’s Religion Editor up until last week, abruptly stepped down from the corporation on May 14, citing poor health.
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The findings of the investigation, carried out by retired judge Lord Dyson, revealed on Thursday that the BBC “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark” and that the internal investigation at the time, led by former BBC director general Tony Hall, was “woefully ineffective.”
Reacting to the findings, Prince Harry said: “Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave and unquestionably honest. The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life.
“To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it,” the Duke of Sussex continued. “That is the first step towards justice and truth. Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these — and even worse — are still widespread today. Then, and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication.
“Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let’s remember who she was and what she stood for.”
Prince William, who is second in line to the throne, simultaneously released his own taped statement responding to the inquiry, using notably stronger language than his brother to hold the public broadcaster to account.
“It is my view that the deceitful way that the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said,” said the Duke of Cambridge.
“The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse, and has since hurt countless others. It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.”
Prince Harry recently lambasted paparazzi culture and the intense media scrutiny of his life with wife Meghan Markle in an interview with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman’s “Armchair Expert” podcast.
The BBC reached out to the princes to apologize for its shortcomings in investigating Bashir’s methods of securing the Panorama interview. The release of the 127-page inquiry findings is seen as a major stain on the BBC’s reputation, and some have likened it to the corporation’s version of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
Dyson effectively suggested that the BBC had tried to cover up the findings of its internal investigation into Bashir 25 years ago. “I have also concluded that, without justification, the BBC covered up in its press logs such facts as it had been able to establish about how Mr Bashir secured the interview; and failed to mention the issue at all on any news program and thereby fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark,” wrote Dyson.
Calling the independent report both “thorough and comprehensive,” director-general Tim Davie said in a statement that the corporation “accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full.”
“Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings,” said Davie.
“While today’s BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way. The BBC should have made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew. While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”
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