A report into the circumstances that led to a world-famous 1995 BBC interview with Princess Diana has led to Britain’s national broadcaster being widely condemned by her sons Prince William and Prince Harry, the government, and the media.
Diana’s famous 1995 Panorama interview with Martin Bashir has long been embroiled in controversy due to the way the interview was secured, as well as the BBC’s reluctance to investigate the matter in-depth.
Prince William said that the BBC’s failures “contributed significantly to her (Diana’s) fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.”
Prince Harry said: “Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed.”
He added that “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,” he added.
“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.”
William called for the interview to never be broadcast again, and made clear that his mother was not failed by just one “rogue reporter” but by high-level BBC executives “who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions.”
He added that the interview was a “major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others.”
BBC’s Bashir ‘deceived and induced’ Diana’s brother
Famously, Diana said in the interview: “There were three of us in this marriage” – referring to herself, Prince Charles, and Camilla Parker Bowles, duchess of Cornwall since 2005, when she married Charles.
The independent inquiry into the BBC interview found that Bashir “deceived and induced” Diana’s brother Earl Spencer to secure the interview. Bashir last week left the BBC, citing health issues.
He faked bank statements in order to gain access to Diana, the independent inquiry showed.
This was a “serious breach” of BBC guidelines, the report said, adding: “Without justification, the BBC fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark.”
The independent inquiry also found that the original BBC internal inquiry in 1996 was “woefully ineffective,” and “did not scrutinise Mr Bashir’s account with the necessary degree of scepticism and caution” even though some of his falsehoods were known.
The inquiry added that Bashir was “unable or unwilling” to give a satisfactory explanation why he had the fake statements created.
Diana, the public ‘let down’
William also said in his statement: “In an era of fake news, public service broadcasting and a free press have never been more important. These failings, identified by investigative journalists, not only let my mother down, and my family down; they let the public down too.”
The BBC has sent written apologies to both William and Harry, as well as Prince Charles and Earl Spencer.
Bashir also apologized in the report’s aftermath, saying faking the bank statements was “a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret.” He insisted, however, that it had “no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview”.
The British government’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said the report “reveals damning failings at the heart of the BBC” and that “we will now reflect … and consider whether further governance reforms at the BBC are needed.”
Separately, Harry also said he used drink and drugs to cope with his mother’s death, and the Royal Family did not help him with his mental health later in life.
‘Cameras made my blood boil’
In an interview with Oprah as part of a new TV series, he said: “The clicking of cameras and the flashing of cameras makes my blood boil. It makes me angry and takes me back to what happened to my mum and my experience as a kid.”
He continued: “I was so angry with what happened to her, and the fact that there was no justice at all. Nothing came from that. The same people that chased her into the tunnel photographed her dying on the backseat of that car.”
During his late twenties and early thirties, he said he suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, “freaking out every time I jump in a car or see a camera.”
On his relationship with Meghan Markle, his wife since 2018 and duchess of Sussex, and the negative media attention he got, he said went to the royal family for help but was ignored.
“I felt completely helpless. I thought my family would help – but every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, just got met with total silence or total neglect,” he said.
“We spent four years trying to make it work. We did everything that we possibly could to stay there and carry on doing the role and doing the job.”
In January 2020, Harry and Meghan stepped back from their role as senior members of the royal family, with widespread press reports of a rift among the royals.