BBC director general Tim Davie has announced that the corporation has launched an independent investigation into why Martin Bashir was rehired in 2016 amid concerns over his conduct in securing a sensational 1995 interview with Princess Diana.
Davie told BBC Radio 2’s Today show that Ken MacQuarrie, the BBC’s former director of nations and regions, is overseeing the fast-turnaround inquiry, which is set to report next week. Davie said MacQuarrie’s findings will be published in full.
Bashir resigned from the BBC before the publication of Lord Dyson’s inquiry into the Princess Diana interview last week. The review concluded that the former MSNBC anchor used fake bank statements to secure access to the Princess of Wales. Dyson said it was a serious breach of BBC editorial guidelines.
Davie said Bashir offered his resignation as BBC News’ religion editor prior to management seeing the Dyson report. According to Davie, Bashir was allowed to resign for three reasons: On health grounds, to avoid the BBC having to spend money on a payoff, and finally because it meant there was no “restraint in us getting to the truth.” Davie said it was not an “honorable discharge.”
The MacQuarrie investigation was welcomed by Julian Knight, chair of UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who said: “I and the committee look forward to the report being issued imminently into the scandalous rehiring of Mr Bashir.”
Davie told the Today show that the most “disappointing and shocking elements” of Dyson report related to how the BBC treated Matt Wiessler, the graphic designer who blew the whistle on the whole affair after being commissioned by Bashir to create the fake documents. Wiessler was blacklisted by the BBC after raising his concerns.
Davie apologized to Wiessler and said he will re-examine the BBC’s whistleblowing policy. The director general added that he will meet with Wiessler to hear his story directly and said there will be a “legal discussion” as to whether the BBC owes him compensation for lost work. “We’ll engage in that discussion because clearly, we were at fault,” he said.
On whistleblowing, Davie added: “You have to have a system at a journalistic organization like ours which is built on trust. We have got thousands of journalists out there now doing outstanding work [and] we never want this to happen again. In that, you have to have a way in which people can raise concerns independently… When it comes to editorial whistleblowing, we need to make sure our systems are perfect, well communicated and staff know how to raise issues independently of their line manager.”
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