BBC publishes Lord Dyson's report

The BBC has today published the Rt Hon Lord Dyson’s independent investigation into the circumstances around the 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales

Published: 2:00 pm, 20 May 2021
Updated: 1:58 pm, 20 May 2021
I would like to thank Lord Dyson. His report into the circumstances around the 1995 interview is both thorough and comprehensive. The BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full.
— Tim Davie

The report and associated annexes are published here.

The BBC Board appointed Lord Dyson to lead the investigation on 18 November 2020. Lord Dyson examined documents and records from the time and interviewed a wide range of people involved in the making of the programme.

Lord Dyson says: “The report demonstrates, I believe, that this has been the thorough and fair investigation I set out to do. All key individuals gave comprehensive testimony and I am grateful for their cooperation. It enabled my investigation to establish facts based on evidence and for me to draw the detailed conclusions that have been set out today.”

BBC Director-General, Tim Davie says: “I would like to thank Lord Dyson. His report into the circumstances around the 1995 interview is both thorough and comprehensive. The BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full.

“Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings.

“While today’s BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way. The BBC should have made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew.

“While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”

BBC Chairman, Richard Sharp says: “The BBC Board welcomes the publication of Lord Dyson’s report which it unreservedly accepts. There were unacceptable failures. We take no comfort from the fact that these are historic. The BBC must uphold the highest possible standards. I want to thank Lord Dyson for the thoroughness and diligence of his work.”

The BBC is today writing to a number of individuals involved or linked to these events to apologise directly. We recognise that it has taken far too long to get to the truth.

The 1995 Panorama interview received a number of awards at the time. We do not believe it is acceptable to retain these awards because of how the interview was obtained.

CM7

Notes to editors

The terms of reference for the report were as follows:

  1. What steps did the BBC and in particular Martin Bashir take with a view to obtaining the Panorama interview on 20 November 1995 with Diana, Princess of Wales? This will involve a consideration of all the relevant evidence including (i) the mocked up bank statements purporting to show payments to a former employee of Earl Spencer (ii) the purported payments to members of the Royal Households; and (iii) the other matters recently raised by Earl Spencer not limited to the matters published in the Daily Mail on 7 November 2020.
  2. Were those steps appropriate, having regard in particular to the BBC’s editorial standards prevailing at the time?
  3. To what extent did the actions of the BBC and in particular Martin Bashir influence Diana, Princess of Wales’s decision to give an interview?
  4. What knowledge did the BBC have in 1995 and 1996 of the relevant evidence referred to at paragraph 1 above?
  5. Having regard to what was known at the time of its investigation in 1995 and 1996, how effectively did the BBC investigate the circumstances leading to the interview?

While the processes and procedures that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way, there have been significant changes in the past quarter of a century. These are outlined at Annex A. They include:

  • making significant changes to the editorial guidelines, including the introduction of mandatory rules around the handling of sensitive information, a comprehensive training programme for all editorial staff, and a ‘red flag’ process to engage senior editorial leaders in potentially controversial programmes
  • introducing a thorough and industry-leading whistleblowing scheme, which provides clear and independent routes to raise concerns and, if necessary, direct access for whistle-blowers to a non-executive director on the BBC Board
  • overhauling the BBC’s complaints processes, including the introduction of an expert team of editorial complaints handlers who sit outside of the content-making divisions, reporting directly to the Director-General
  • being party to the introduction of a new governance system with clearer responsibilities around editorial accountability and external regulation from the industry regulator, Ofcom

The report and related costs are expected to total around £1.4million. The BBC funded reasonable legal costs for BBC figures giving evidence.