Martin Bashir became a household name overnight after his infamous BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995, where she discussed the hidden details of her life inside the royal family, and her failed marriage with the Prince of Wales.
Over two decades later, the interview, and how Martin Bashir managed to secure it, was at the centre of an investigation, with a report on the findings published on 20 May.
The inquiry found that the BBC fell short of “high standards of integrity and transparency” regarding Bashir’s Diana interview, and that the BBC’s own 1996 investigation was “woefully ineffective”.
This is everything you need to know.
Who is Martin Bashir?
Martin Bashir is a British journalist who rose to prominence with his 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana.
The interview featured intimate details of the failed marriage between Princess Diana and Charles, Prince of Wales, as well as Diana’s life inside the royal family. At the time, it was watched by 23 million people.
Bashir was the recipient of various awards for the Diana interview, including a BAFTA Award, TV Journalist of the Year from the Broadcasting Press Guild, and Journalist of the Year from the Royal Television Society.
Following the Diana interview, Bashir also conducted a number of other interviews with high profile figures, such as Michael Jackson, Charles Ingram – the army major who was found guilty of trying to cheat his way to winning the top prize on quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire – and Louise Woodward, a British au pair who was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of a baby she was caring for in America.
What has Bashir’s career been like?
Bashir was born on 19 January 1963 in Wandsworth in London. He studied English and History from 1982 to 1985 at King Alfred’s College of Higher Education, and completed his master’s degree at King’s College London.
Bashir’s career as a journalist began as a freelance sports writer before he joined the BBC in 1986. Bashir stayed with the BBC until 1999, and appeared on programmes including Songs of Praise, Public Eye and, of course, Panorama.
In 1999, Bashir moved to ITV where he worked on special documentary programmes and features for Tonight with Trevor McDonald. In 2004, Bashir moved to New York where he worked for ABC as a co-anchor for their current affairs programme Nightline, along with Cynthia McFadden and Terry Moran. In 2005, he took over Nightline from Ted Koppel.
In 2008, Bashir was suspended from ABC News for behaviour that was described as “crude and sexist” during a dinner speech at the Asain American Journalists Association convention in Chicago.
Two years later, Bashir left ABC for MSNBC, where he took up the role as political commentator and also hosted his own programme.
In late 2016, Bashir returned to the BBC as religious affairs correspondent.
Last year Bashir also appeared on the celebrity spin off version of the X-Factor, where he was eliminated from the show after week three.
Where is Bashir now?
On 14 May 2021, Bashir resigned from the BBC on grounds of poor health, and he was said to be seriously unwell with Covid-19 complications.
BBC Deputy Director of News, Jonathan Munro, told staff: “Martin Bashir has stepped down from his position as the BBC’s religious editor and is leaving the corporation.
“He let us know of his decision last month, just before being readmitted to hospital for another surgical procedure on his heart.
“Although he underwent major surgery toward the end of last year, he is facing some ongoing issues and has decided to focus on his health.”
The BBC also said in a statement: “Martin Bashir is signed off work by his doctors as he is currently recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and has significant complications from having contracted Covid-19 earlier in the year.”
What’s the inquiry into the Diana interview about?
The investigation into the infamous Diana interview was led by Lord Dyson, which looked into a claim lodged by Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, that accused Bashir of having lied to the princess in order to secure the interview.
The independent inquiry was commissioned by the BBC in 2020, after Spencer went public with the accusations.
The investigation was launched after Spencer alleged Bashir showed him fake financial documents relating to his sister’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson, and another former royal household member, and told lies about the royal family to gain access to the princess.
At the time the inquiry was launched, Lord Dyson said: “This is an important investigation which I will start straight away. I will ensure it is both thorough and fair.”
What did the inquiry find?
Lord Dyson’s inquiry was published on 20 May 2021.
Key points found by Lord Dyson in the inquiry include:
- Bashir breached BBC rules by fabricating false bank statements in order to gain access to Princess Diana
- Bashir showed said fake documents to Earl Spencer in order to gain his trust
- Princess Diana was persuaded by Bashir to give the interview after he gained access to her, through Earl Spencer
- The BBC covered up how Bashir scored the interview
- Princess Diana, via a 1995 letter, said that she had “no regrets” regarding the interview
Both the BBC and Bashir have apologised over the matter. The BBC said that the report showed “clear failings” and said that it should have handled the situation better. Bashir said that falsifying the documents was “a stupid thing do to do” but he will “always remain immensely proud of that interview”.
As well as writing apologies to Diana’s sons, the BBC also wrote apologies to Princes Charles and Earl Spencer, and has returned all awards that the interview received, including the 1996 TV Bafta.
The BBC has paid damages to Patrick Jephson, the former private secretary of Princess Diana of eight years, for the “harm caused to him” by Bashir’s interview.
The BBC has said that Jephson intends to donate the money to charities in the UK.
In a statement, the BBC said: “The BBC accepts and acknowledges that serious harm was caused to Commander Jephson as a result of the circumstances in which the 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, was obtained, which have become apparent as a result of the Dyson Report.
“The BBC apologises unreservedly to Commander Jephson for the harm caused to him and has paid his legal costs.
“The BBC has also paid Commander Jephson a substantial sum in damages, which he intends to donate in full to British charities nominated by him.”
Jephson told the PA news agency he will be donating the money to Ty Hafan, a children’s hospice for which he helped arrange Diana’s patronage in 1995 – the year of the Bashir interview.
He said: “After more than 25 years, it is a relief finally to reach a conclusion to this painful episode.
“I am grateful to Lord Dyson and the journalists whose tenacity has brought the truth to light and I now look forward to donating the damages I have been awarded to Ty Hafan, the hospice for children in Wales, in memory of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.”
Jephson is now a historical consultant to award-winning Netflix series The Crown.
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