Martin Bashir still paid by BBC despite departure before Princess Diana report
Broadcaster accepted journalist’s resignation to allow ‘clean break’
Former BBC journalist Martin Bashir is still being paid by the broadcaster despite damning revelations of how he obtained a controversial 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
BBC director general Tim Davie said Bashir was “on a three-month notice period” and would continue to receive his salary until it expires.
The journalist stepped down as the broadcaster’s religion editor in May, citing ill health, before the release of Lord Dyson’s report into the Diana scandal.
He had been on sick leave for several months before he resigned.
The inquiry found the journalist used deceit and forged bank statements to convince the princess to be interviewed, and that an internal BBC investigation a year later had covered up his tactics.
Mr Davie said Bashir’s notice period began “from the moment he resigned, so we’re nearly out”.
He said he accepted the resignation so there would be “no restraint in us getting to the truth”.
“It allowed a clean break with no pay-off, which I thought was in the licence fee payers’ interest,” he told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.
In the Panorama interview, Diana said there were “three of us in this marriage” when asked about her relationship with Prince Charles, triggering a crisis for the royal family.
‘Whiff of criminality’
Julian Knight, Conservative MP who is chairman of the House of Commons’ culture committee, said on Monday there was a “more than a whiff of criminality” over how Bashir obtained the interview.
Mr Knight also suggested the BBC rehired Bashir years after the interview to “keep his mouth shut” about the deception.
“Put simply, Mr Bashir obtained fame and fortune by instituting document forgery and callously scaring a mentally vulnerable woman,” he told MPs.
“Not a mistake ... but something with more than a whiff of criminality about it. The BBC then covered this up.”
He said Bashir had been rehired in 2016 without an interview, after leaving the BBC in 1999.
“Was Bashir rehired in essence so that he would keep his mouth shut?” he said.
Mr Davie said a “quick, independent investigation” was under way to look into why Bashir was rehired and whether appropriate processes were followed.
He acknowledged that rehiring Bashir was a “big mistake” when viewed in the context of the Dyson findings.
“We’re interviewing people, getting the documents, and we should be able to publish the documents next week,” he said.
“There’s certainly things that need to be looked into.”
On Monday, the BBC said it would review its editorial policies and governance in the wake of the Diana scandal, with an internal inquiry to be conducted by a group of non-executive directors.
Mr Davie said he could not accept Earl Spencer’s assertion that he could “draw a line” between his sister’s death and the Panorama interview.
“We fully accept the Dyson report, beyond that we are into speculation,” he said.
Asked whether the full interview would be aired by the broadcaster again, he replied: “I’ve got no intention of airing the interview ever again.
“You cannot now look at this interview free from the context in which it was secured.”
Updated: May 25, 2021 05:50 PM