Brothers Prince William and Prince Harry have reacted with anger, grief and sadness following the release of the findings of an inquiry into a 1995 BBC Panorama televised interview with their mother, the late Princess Diana.
In 1995, journalist Martin Bashir interviewed the Princess of Wales from inside Kensington Palace in a 'bombshell' interview which was watched by more than 20 million people on the BBC. In the interview, Diana spoke about her personal mental health struggles, uttered the infamous 'there were three of us in this marriage' line concerning her estranged husband Prince Charles' relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles (now the Duchess of Cornwall), admitted to having affairs of her own and considered whether there was an active effort to undermine and conspire against her from inside the Palace.
Now, a report published by retired judge Lord Dyson has found that serious editorial and ethical guidelines were breached by Bashir in obtaining the interview. The judge found that the journalist used forged bank statements purporting to show payments by a newspaper group to a former member of staff of Princess Diana's brother Earl Spencer and showed them to the Earl to gain his trust and persuade Diana to speak to Bashir for the interview. Bashir later showed other faked statements purporting to show transactions into the accounts of Diana and Prince Charles' private secretaries to suggest wrongdoing.
The report concludes that Bashir 'deceived and induced' the Earl Spencer into gaining an interview with Diana and also 'seriously breached' BBC guidelines in doing so. In 1996, the BBC investigated these claims about Bashir's tactics when they first surfaced and cleared him of any wrongdoing. The BBC has therefore also come under fire in Lord Dyson's report for being 'woefully ineffective' in its own investigation and subsequently falling short of 'the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark' and has also been accused of 'covering up' Bashir's methods of obtaining the interview.
It is an understatement to say the report is damning, not only for Bashir and the BBC's reputation but also, with hindsight given that Princess Diana died two years later in a tragic way and had been subject to so much media harassment and manipulation, has been viewed with heightened anger and emotion, as evident by the statements released by Prince William and Prince Harry.
The Duke of Cambridge's statement is perhaps the most forthright and angry we have heard the often tight-lipped Duke respond in quite some time.
In a statement released last night (May 20), Prince William said:
It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others.
It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.
But what saddens me most, is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived. She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions.
The father-of-three then continued to suggest the interview should 'never be aired again', saying that for 25 years the interview has been used to 'establish a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialised by the BBC and others'.
The Duke of Sussex also released a statement last night, where he repeated his long-held belief and experience that a 'ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life', but also took a broader approach, criticising ongoing questionable media practices.
'To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it,' he said after paying tribute to his 'incredible' mother. 'That is the first step towards justice and truth. Yet 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.
'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.'
The BBC has said it has written an apology to both Prince William and Prince Harry, Earl Spencer and Prince Charles following the results of the Dyson inquiry.
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