Martin Bashir cover-up proves that the BBC has lost its moral authority to tax Britain

The language used by a BBC executive in the wake of the recent Diana investigation reveals the Corporation’s attitude to transparency

Tim Davie, Tony Hall and John Birt face a Commons committee over the BBC's handling of the Martin Bashir scandal (Photo: Mark Hall / JPI)
Tim Davie, Tony Hall and John Birt face a Commons committee over the BBC's handling of the Martin Bashir scandal (Photo: Mark Hall / JPI)

“The Diana story is probably now dead, unless Spencer talks.”

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The BBC executive who uttered those words has at long last summed up her and the BBC’s behaviour: “It sounds a bit like the Mafia,” she said.

Former BBC Director General Lord Hall answering questions, via video link, in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee over the handling of Martin Bashir's interview of Diana, Princess of Wales (Photo: PA)

Indeed the Diana story was dead and not much later so was Diana. That is why Prince William condemned the BBC so vehemently.

Yesterday, another internal inquiry into the Martin Bashir episode, another message from the BBC of “nothing to see here.”

Today, former director generals Tony Hall and John Birt, and the incumbent Tim Davie, face MPs. They’re facing a light grilling, but don’t hold your breath for any meaningful commitments or admissions of past mistakes.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The BBC leadership’s self-confessed Mafia behaviour reads like something out of The Godfather, even if it tests credibility.

In 2016 Capo dei capi, Antonio ‘The Lord’ Hall, signals the return of his hitman Mario ‘Babes’ Bashir to the BBC famiglia and puts him in charge of religion.

The BBC behaved as if it was above the law. And like the Mafioso, the BBC’s ambitious perpetrators prospered - for a while, until proper investigative journalists exposed its mendacious manoeuvres.

The Diana episode was only one example of the dirty tricks it pulled on its targets decade after decade.

The low level corruption of the Corporation, encouraged by its Government-style authority with such grandiose titles as Director General and Comptroller and Auditor General, extended to the elevation of mediocre presenters as stars.

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Those stars then became untouchables because the BBC had a monopoly. The result was a dumbing down of content including huge neglect of arts programming that could have levelled up the cultural health of the nation.

Successive governments have shrunk from enforcing their instincts to create a free market media by doing away with the TV licence fee.

It is extraordinary that the British establishment, politicians and the rest of the media alike has been so cowed by the BBC that no major attempt has been made to reform it.

It is, however, explainable. Like the Mafia, BBC soldiers are embedded across all the strands of politics, the civil service, regulation, education, the church and the wider media, effectively an alumni protection racket.

The most glaring of all travesties is the BBC’s presence inside Ofcom, the organisation that purports to be the BBC’s regulator. Two of the ten Ofcom board were former BBC executives. One of them, gone recently, was implicated in the Diana cover-up.

Of the 18 members of Ofcom’s content board the ex-BBC battalion amounts to - wait for it - 13.

The profoundly undemocratic system of forcing a tax to pay for a single media institution is now unsustainable.

NationalWorld is not arguing to abolish the BBC - our survey showed that there is a willingness among the public to pay for the services they consume. And the BBC will be a lot better for that.

Freedom of choice is as sacred as the freedom of the press - but neither apply in the UK while the licence fee and the BBC’s monopolistic position in news provision exist.

Today NationalWorld calls on the rest of the press to have the courage to do what it should have done years ago - support the abolition of this undemocratic tax.

A genuinely free press demands that we strip the BBC of its unworthy monopoly in news, and that can be done only by withdrawing the compulsory financial support it enjoys.

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