Martin Bashir still on the payroll at the BBC, director-general admits

·4-min read
ABC
Journalist Martin Bashir is still being paid by the BBC. (AP)

Martin Bashir is still being paid by the BBC, despite standing down from his current role over his "deceitful behaviour" in securing his 1995 Princess Diana interview.

The disgraced journalist is continuing to work out a short notice period, BBC boss Tim Davie said on Tuesday.

Last week, Lord Dyson’s report into the 1995 Panorama interview found that Bashir used “deceitful behaviour” to land the world exclusive and that an internal BBC investigation a year later had covered it up.

On Monday, the BBC board announced it will launch a review into the effectiveness of the broadcaster’s editorial policies and governance.

Watch: BBC board to review editorial policies following Lord Dyson report

Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Bashir had stood down as the BBC's religion editor because of health issues.

Davie told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday that Bashir was working out a three-month paid notice period that started when he resigned and was almost at an end.

“He’s working out a short notice period because he resigned, and that’s where we are now," he said.

Davie said he did not know yet why Bashir was rehired in 2016 but that a “quick” investigation will publish its findings next week.

EMBARGOED TO 0900 THURSDAY APRIL 22 File photo dated 01/09/20 of BBC's director-general Tim Davie who has said he would
BBC director-general Tim Davie said an investigation is under way over Martin Bashir's rehiring. (PA)

“We’re interviewing people, getting the documents, and we should be able to publish something next week,” he said.

“There’s no doubt with what you know now – it’s a big mistake.”

Lord Dyson said Bashir was in “serious breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines when he faked bank statements and showed them to Diana’s brother Earl Spencer to gain access to the princess.

An internal inquiry in 1996, led by future director-general Lord Tony Hall, who was director of BBC news and current affairs at the time, exonerated Bashir, even though he had previously admitted lying about the fake documents he used in obtaining the interview.

Graphic designer Matt Wiessler, who mocked up fake bank statements for Bashir, had tried to expose the journalist’s methods but complained he was sidelined.

Davie said the way Wiessler was treated was “shocking” and that he would like to meet him.

“I think some of the most disappointing and shocking elements of this, and there are multiple failings which we have apologised for, are things like the whistleblowing, how did that work?” said Davie.

“The very person who raised this – and I know many staff feel very strongly about this – the very person who raised this as an issue, suffered enormous impacts, which we’re very sorry for. 

"That cannot happen again. We have improved processes but I want to look again at things.”

Davie said he has “no intention” of airing Bashir’s interview with Diana again.

Pushed on whether he meant never any aspect of it, he said: “I think we need to discuss clips and reflect on that.

“My view is you cannot now look at this interview free from the context in which it was secured.”

Conservative MP Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said Davie’s comments “struck the right note, particularly when it came to the approach to whistleblowing”.

On Monday, Knight told the House of Commons that Lord Dyson's report was "utterly damning".

He said: "Put simply, Mr Bashir obtained fame and fortune by instituting document forgery and callously scaring a mentally vulnerable woman."

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama. (Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Martin Bashir, right, interviews Princess Diana for Panorama in 1995. (Getty)

Junior culture minister John Whittingdale said the BBC’s reputation had been “badly tarnished” by the Panorama interview scandal.

Lee Anderson, Conservative MP for Ashfield, said: “I personally have ripped up my TV licence and they won’t get another penny from me ever, because in my opinion the once great BBC is rotten and my constituents should not have to pay for a service if they don’t use it.”

Announcing a review of its practices, the BBC board admitted the failings set out in Lord Dyson’s report and said it hoped to ensure the “mistakes of the past” were not repeated.

Diana's two sons William and Harry have both condemned the BBC's handling of the interview in the wake of the Dyson report's publication.

Watch: William and Harry condemn BBC over Diana interview

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