Politics

BBC ‘should consider compensation’ for Diana interview whistleblowers

The BBC should consider paying compensation to whistleblowers who raised concerns about how the corporation obtained its controversial interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, a senior Tory MP has said.

The national broadcaster has faced intense criticism in recent days following a damning report by Lord Dyson which found that it had fallen short of “high standards of integrity and transparency” over the 1995 episode of its current affairs series Panorama.

The inquiry said journalist Martin Bashir acted in a “deceitful” way and faked documents in order to obtain the interview with Diana, adding that an internal probe into the programme in 1996 had been “woefully ineffective”.

Julian Knight, the chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said on Saturday that there was a need to strengthen editorial policy at the BBC, with less “kowtowing” to the “talent”.

The Tory MP added the corporation should reflect on the way it treated insiders, such as graphic designer Matt Wiessler, who tried to expose the methods used to obtain the interview.

Mr Wiessler complained he had been sidelined after he raised concerns that fake bank statements he mocked up for Mr Bashir had been used by the journalist to persuade Diana to take part in the Panorama programme.

Mr Knight noted that the former employee clearly believed that BBC director-general Tim Davie should now meet him to hear directly what he has to say about the scandal.

“He is clearly very emotional, he feels this has probably impaired his life to a certain degree,” the Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I think the BBC needs to have a real open mind in terms of the possibility of compensation but also how it interacts with people like Mr Wiessler who clearly have faced quite profound consequences due to this fiasco.”

Mr Knight has already written to Mr Davie asking for an explanation as to how Mr Bashir came to be rehired by the BBC as its religious affairs correspondent in 2016, even though it was known that he had lied over the bank statements.

On Friday, former BBC executive Tim Suter, who was part of the 1996 internal investigation, stepped down from his board role with media watchdog Ofcom.

It came after the Duke of Cambridge condemned the BBC over the interview, arguing that it had fuelled his mother’s “fear, paranoia and isolation”.

“The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others,” Prince William said.

“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.”

The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, also condemned the corporation over the inquiry’s findings, saying that the “ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life.”

Additional reporting by PA

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