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Here’s a write up of this morning’s discussions by my colleague Ben Quinn.
The crisis for the BBC comes at after a new grouping of figures concerned about the future of public service broadcasting this week accused the government of undermining confidence in Britain’s creative industries with “drip-fed” stories suggesting plans for the privatisation of public broadcasters.
The accusations, made at the launch of the British Broadcasting Challenge group, coincided with the publication of an open letter to the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, signed by more than 120 people, including the writers Hilary Mantel and Salman Rushdie, who voiced alarm about the BBC’s future.
A strategic review of public service broadcasting is already under way, with an advisory panel appointed by the government in November.
Graphic designer Matt Wiessler, who was commissioned by Martin Bashir to create the mocked-up documents, has said there is a culture within the BBC that it only admits mistakes “under duress”.
He said that the fallout from his attempts to expose the deceit involved in obtaining the Diana interview meant he was blacklisted by the BBC, causing his business to fold.
Wiessler told the Today programme:
I just feel that there is this culture within the BBC that the little people – me being the whistleblower – that we don’t really need to be addressed. Only under duress, do we get some sort of apology and some sort of acknowledgement.
All he had received was a “well-crafted letter” from the BBC at 10pm on Thursday which did “the absolute minimum” to acknowledge how poorly he had been treated, he said. “It’s too little too late – what I now expect, after so many years, is to have real people come forward and speak to me.”
He added: “I didn’t have any work, my business partner had enough work to see us through. But it also broke the company up in the end because he and I fell out because it was very hard … He was bringing in all the work – the BBC were only ever speaking to him when we did get a bit of work from them.”
Former Panorama producer Mark Killick, who was sacked from the programme within 24 hours when he raised concerns, said the BBC had presided over “a culture of fear” that deterred whistleblowers coming forward.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said:
[Wiessler], one of the finest graphic designers of his generation, effectively never worked in that industry again. That’s a tragedy but that’s also a career loss … I don’t think an apology and ‘let’s all move on’ covers it frankly.
I also think there was a marginal issue with the culture of fear that was established then – it was a long time ago, but they sent a clear message to everyone in the BBC, ‘do not refer up, do not bring the BBC bad news’.
Killick claimed that senior managers at the BBC had fostered a “culture of fear” to deter whistleblowers and orchestrated a smear campaign against its own employees.
I was told we only want the loyal people on the programme – I had been on Panorama for 10 years – and I was effectively let go. That is what happened to whistleblowers at that time.
The Metropolitan police has said it will “assess the contents” of the report “to ensure there is no significant new evidence”.
In a statement, Scotland Yard said:
In March 2021, the MPS determined it was not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity in connection with a documentary broadcast in 1995 but should any significant new evidence emerge it would be assessed.
Following the publication of Lord Dyson’s report we will assess its contents to ensure there is no significant new evidence.
Here’s a bit more on Buckland’s thoughts about BBC governance, courtesy of his conversation this morning on ITV’s Good Morning Britain
My colleague, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has rightly said that we should look at the governance structures of the BBC. We will take time to do that – the report that Lord Dyson issued yesterday is 127 pages long, so that needs to be looked at very carefully.
And there may be issues that Lord Dyson wasn’t asked to cover that need to be looked at more widely, so it is a very serious moment for the BBC. They have apologised, which is appropriate, but clearly the wider issues of governance and the way things are run now need to be looked at.
It is clear that the government are also seeking to raise existential questions around the BBC. Buckland has also this morning said it has a responsibility to look at whether the broadcaster needs reform in the wake of the report.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Robert Buckland was asked if the government would use the story as an “excuse” to “tackle the BBC”. He replied:
I don’t think anybody should be using this very serious set of revelations as an excuse to do or not do anything. The facts, sadly, speak very much for themselves.
We’ve heard the reaction of the family and I think it’s incumbent upon everybody to soberly and calmly go through what has happened here, and to make appropriate changes in order to ensure that this sort of thing can never and should never happen again.”
Earlier in the interview, he said:
The government has to, in the light of these serious findings, consider the matter very carefully and comprehensively indeed. Because it wasn’t just the decision of a reporter or a production team, there were decisions made much further up the chain about the conduct of these individuals that have now proved, according to Lord Dyson, to be unfounded and wrong.
And therefore, government does have a responsibility to look very carefully to see whether the governance of the BBC does need reform in the light of these devastating findings.”
On whether the police should be involved, Buckland said:
That, of course, is a matter for the police and the independent prosecutorial authorities and I’m not going to say anything to prejudge or to influence any such line of inquiry.
But I think anybody reading the headlines and the summary of Lord Dyson’s findings will be struck by his use of those words, fraud and deception and the like, and clearly those sort of issues, I’m afraid, could and do arise.”
Asked if a second inquiry was needed to look at wider questions not in the remit of Lord Dyson’s work, such as the treatment of whistleblowers, Buckland said:
I think all of us need to carefully comb through the report and if indeed there are issues that specifically Lord Dyson wasn’t able, due to the remit that he was given to look at, then there should be, and I’m sure there will be, an opportunity to do just that.
Welcome to our live blog covering all political and Covid-related developments in the UK today. I’m Mattha Busby and you may get in touch with me on Twitter with any tips or thoughts.
As the repercussions of a highly critical review into the broadcast of Princess Diana’s infamous 1995 Panorama interview continue to ripple, the justice secretary Robert Buckland has suggested she was “inveigled” into it.
The minister this morning appeared to suggest the BBC interview with the Princess of Wales “perhaps might not have happened” if “very high standards” had been adhered to at the time. He told LBC:
Well, I think a lot of us will often say that sometimes the cover-up is worse than the crime. Having listened to both the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex, you are struck I think by, at a family level, the sense of tragedy and loss that comes through in their statements.
Let’s just imagine it was any family, not the royal family – I think we should be just as indignant and concerned if somebody who was vulnerable was inveigled into giving an interview that perhaps might not have happened if standards of probity and honesty had been maintained.
And then of course it is compounded by, as you described, a cover-up or a failure to put right and to apply the very high standards that have got to apply to a public service broadcaster like the BBC.
The inquiry into the broadcast, conducted by former supreme court judge John Dyson, found that interviewer Martin Bashir had engaged in “deceitful behaviour” by commissioning fake bank statements to land the interview – a “serious breach” of the BBC’s editorial guidelines.
In his 127-page report, the judge also criticised the conduct of Tony Hall, the corporation’s former director-general, who was accused of overseeing a flawed and “woefully ineffective” internal probe into the issue. As the then head of BBC News, he was aware Bashir had told “serious and unexplained lies” about what he had done to persuade the princess to speak to him, the report said.
The BBC’s current director general, Tim Davie, said the corporation accepted “in full” the report. “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,” he said.
The BBC has a handwritten note from Diana stating that the documents played “no part in her decision to take part in the interview”.
When asked whether Bashir had committed “fraud” with the fake bank statements, Buckland said the documents were “hugely serious”:
I think looking at the findings of Lord Dyson, there are clearly some very serious issues arise. I’m not going to comment on whether criminal offences have been committed here. I think that is a matter for the police and the investigating authorities.
You wouldn’t expect me to opine about that. But I’m sure you’ve looked, like me, at the executive summary, it is a 127-page report and you see some of the words being used there – about false documents, forgery etcetera – these are hugely serious matters that don’t just raise questions about the individuals and the journalists involved but also the senior leadership, sadly, who made decisions that Lord Dyson has I think rightly scrutinised and has found to be wrong.
So there is a lot of work for the BBC to do in order to make good what happened here.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK politics live news: Diana could have been ‘inveigled’ into BBC interview, says Buckland | Politics