Lord Hall issued a grovelling apology to Princes William and Harry yesterday for the ‘hurt caused’ by the Princess Diana Panorama scandal.
In a day of shame for the BBC, MPs savaged Lord Hall and other corporation chiefs for being evasive over how they had allowed liar Bashir to operate.
Tim Davie, the current director-general, described his shock at the Duke of Cambridge’s explosive remarks following Lord Dyson’s devastating report into how Bashir secured his famous 1995 Panorama interview.
Former BBC director-general Lord Hall told MPs he was ‘deeply sorry’ after Prince William accused him of ‘looking the other way’ as Martin Bashir (pictured) ruined his mother’s life
William condemned the deceit and tricks that had worsened his mother’s ‘fear, paranoia and isolation’ and the subsequent ‘woeful’ cover-up by BBC managers. Mr Davie told MPs: ‘It was upsetting and it was a sad day.
‘Primarily, I felt deep sympathy for the sons of Princess Diana. It was a very low moment for us.’
Lord Birt, who was director-general at the time of Bashir’s historic ‘there were three of us in this marriage’ interview, said his ‘heart went out’ to Diana’s sons.
The Commons media committee spent almost four hours grilling the trio of past and present BBC director-generals after the Dyson report revealed how Bashir had cruelly duped Diana into granting the interview.
Lord Birt branded Bashir a cunning, callous, ‘serial liar on an industrial scale’ – yet the ‘confidence trickster’ was still rehired by the BBC in 2016 as its religious affairs correspondent.
He added: ‘I think there is a terrible irony in all of this, that (Bashir) starts his BBC career on Songs of Praise and ends it as the BBC’s religious editor, and in between perpetrates one of the biggest crimes in the history of broadcasting.’
In a day of shame for the BBC, MPs savaged Lord Hall (pictured via video link on Tuesday) and other corporation chiefs for being evasive over how they had allowed liar Bashir to operate
Lord Birt (pictured in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee over Martin Bashir’s interview of Diana) branded Bashir a cunning, callous, ‘serial liar on an industrial scale’
Lord Birt said it was ‘probably a one-in-a-hundred-year occurrence of having a rogue reporter who is willing to be deceitful on this scale’.
Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother, criticised the ‘unbelievable’ decision by the BBC on Monday to clear itself over the reappointment of ‘known liar’ Bashir after an investigation headed by veteran executive Ken MacQuarrie. He repeated his call for Scotland Yard to launch a criminal probe into the scandal.
‘HE TOOK US IN’
Lord Hall, who had called Bashir an ‘honest’ and an ‘honourable man’ in his report to the BBC governors in 1996 –despite him faking bank statements and showing them to Earl Spencer to gain an introduction – told MPs: ‘He took us all in with his lies.’
Lord Hall, who was in charge of news and current affairs at the time, said he had grilled Bashir over his use of the forgeries in 1996.
‘We pushed Bashir hard, and he was in tears. He was out of his depth and contrite. We gave him a yellow card. We gave him a second chance and trusted him, and it turns out we couldn’t.’
40k PER BULLETIN IN RELIGION JOB
Martin Bashir pocketed ‘about £40,000’ for each news bulletin he presented, MPs claimed yesterday.
The BBC’s outgoing religion editor, who was formerly religious affairs correspondent, was only on screen ‘half a dozen times’ – and spent more time ‘moonlighting’ on Celebrity X Factor, they said.
His staggering rate of pay was estimated by Julian Knight, chairman of the culture committee, who suggested the reporter was earning up to £120,000 a year.
He told former director-general Lord Hall: ‘You were the DG. He was employed for about three years. He probably made £250,000.
‘We did a trawl, and he basically appeared on air and on the BBC website half a dozen times. It’s about £40,000 a time. Quite nice work if you can get it, Lord Hall?’
The ex-BBC chief replied: ‘Well, that’s not an effective use of a correspondent, I would agree. But you are telling me things I didn’t know.’
And SNP MP John Nicolson added: ‘He spent more time moonlighting for ITV on Celebrity X Factor than he did on BBC television.’
Bashir was a contestant on the television talent show in 2019 and wowed judges with his rendition of the Nat King Cole song L-O-V-E.
But Lord Hall was skewered over his treatment of BBC graphics artist Matt Wiessler who had blown the whistle on Bashir’s fake bank statements ruse to bosses – but suffered for 25 years when Lord Hall made him the fall guy.
Tory MP Julian Knight, chairman of the committee, said: ‘Your blackballing of Mr Wiessler isn’t just a failure of management – it’s a failure of morality.’
Mr Davie was accused of ‘heading for a cover-up’ just weeks after taking over as director-general last year – and only launching the Dyson inquiry after the Mail had blown the lid off the scandal.
Mr Davie insisted he had acted swiftly to order an independent inquiry, after the extent of Bashir’s lies and smears came to light last November.
But he was challenged by the MPs, who said the BBC had tried to shut down the story in October – prompting Earl Spencer to become ‘enraged’ and go public via the Mail.
As the Mail revealed last month, the BBC twice turned away detailed claims about Bashir’s scheming before spending £1.4 million on the Dyson inquiry.
Corporation chiefs rebuffed offers from Channel 4 documentary maker Andy Webb and Princess Diana’s brother – who both offered their evidence for free.
SNP MP John Nicolson said: ‘The crucial factor is that you had a series of conversations with Earl Spencer who grew very frustrated by your tone during those conversations and eventually he gave up on you and he went to the Daily Mail.
‘So, of course, the reason that you announced the inquiry was because the Daily Mail had already splashed on it.
Mr Nicolson said: ‘Earl Spencer thought you were heading for another cover–up – and he gave up on you and he went to the Daily Mail. I also have an email here from Earl Spencer to a third party, and it says this: ‘Tim Davie’s response was the final straw for me. That’s when I went public’.’
REHIRING FIASCO IN 2016
MPs lamented the ‘crazed ethos’ of BBC ‘cappuccino interviews’ that welcomed ‘known liar’ Bashir back to the corporation in 2016.
He was rehired as the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent, despite managers knowing he had faked documents when on Panorama in 1995.
Bashir had been suspended from one high-profile job in America and resigned from another in the US, both times after making offensive remarks.
On Monday, the BBC cleared itself with an internal report concluding Bashir had been rehired because he was the ‘best person for the job’.
Yet the report also revealed he had been ‘the favourite’ from the start and had met BBC news executives for coffee two months before the post was even advertised. One rival candidate regarded Bashir’s appointment as a ‘done deal’.
Yesterday Mr Knight said: ‘This was a sham, plain and simple. Many people knew he was a proven liar, yet they fixed it for him to get a job and later be promoted.’
Incredulous MPs accused Lord Hall of signing off Bashir’s return to the BBC despite knowing – from his own inquiries in 1996 – that he was a liar. Mr Knight said: ‘This man’s a known liar coming back through your door. It was a complete charade on your watch.’
Tim Davie (pictured), current director-general, described his shock at William’s explosive remarks following Lord Dyson’s report into how Bashir secured his Panorama interview
Lord Hall strenuously denied being involved or even knowing about the appointment until after it was made.
Mr Nicolson said: ‘This was the talk of the newsroom. People were walking round saying, ‘can you believe it, Martin Bashir back, as religious correspondent!’ And you knew nothing? Come on. Martin Bashir had been sacked twice for wrongdoing. You knew he was a serial liar. The idea you were unaware or not involved is implausible.’
Lord Hall said the MacQuarrie report had cleared him, to which Mr Nicolson said: ‘Well, that report is a whitewash.’
Labour MP Clive Efford said: ‘You did the inquiry. You knew he had lied to the BBC on several occasions. You knew he had used false docs. Yet you allowed him to be re-employed back in the BBC.
‘Is it likely that when they are about to appoint Martin Bashir to such a sensitive position, no one knocked on your door?’ Lord Hall said: ‘Well, they didn’t.’
MP Kevin Brennan asked Lord Hall why he didn’t ‘kick the cat or turn the air blue’ when he was informed Bashir was returning, adding: ‘BBC recruitment is less rigorous than me employing a parliamentary researcher. This is a chumocracy approach to employing a proven liar with a dodgy background.’
HALL DEFENDS HIS PUBLIC SERVICE
Lord Hall gave a passionate defence of his 35 years of public service after Mr Nicolson suggested he should forfeit some of his ‘lavish pension’.
The MP said Lord Hall’s woeful investigation of Bashir had led to the Dyson inquiry which cost licence-payers £1.4 million, ‘or 9,000 licence fees directly as a result of your negligence’.
Lord Hall replied: ‘I have been a public servant for 35 years, at the BBC, then the Royal Opera House, which at that time was in crisis, then I rescued the cultural Olympics in 2012, and I came back to the BBC in 2013 to rescue the BBC from the [Jimmy] Savile crisis. Twenty-five years ago, we made a mistake. But please don’t let that colour my record of public service over 35 years. I have done a hell of a lot for the BBC and the arts.
‘I regret this one thing we got wrong because we were lied to 25 years ago.’
HALL: I DIDN’T DESTROY THE MISSING DIANA MEMO
By Sam Greenhill for the Daily Mail
Former BBC boss Lord Hall yesterday angrily denied destroying key evidence that proved Martin Bashir was a serial liar.
A ‘missing memo’ from 1996 was unearthed by Lord Dyson – but had been mysteriously absent from the BBC’s files. The 1996 note, written by then-BBC executive Tim Gardam, is the single most important piece of evidence in the Bashir saga.
Mr Gardam wrote in March that year how the reporter had lied three times to his bosses over whether he had shown faked bank statements to Earl Spencer – before finally confessing that he had.
Lord Hall, who was BBC head of news and current affairs at the time, also denied destroying evidence that proved Martin Bashir (pictured with Diana in Panorama interview) was a liar
In 1996, Mr Gardam handed his explosive memo to ‘the office of Lord Hall’, said Lord Dyson. After that, it appears to have gone missing.
But yesterday Lord Hall, who was BBC head of news and current affairs at the time, said he could not remember the document. When MP John Nicolson asked him, ‘Did you destroy it?’, he replied: ‘Absolutely not.’
The memo is central because it proves the BBC had established by March 28, 1996, that its star reporter was a serial liar.
In April that year, Lord Hall wrote a statement for the BBC board of governors describing Bashir as an ‘honest’ and ‘honourable’ man who had made a simple mistake by mocking up fake statements. But he admitted yesterday these words had been ‘inappropriate’.
Yet he was unable to explain why the damning handwritten memo was missing from BBC files. A copy was handed to Lord Dyson by Mr Gardam.
Mr Nicolson asked current BBC director-general Tim Davie if he consulted Lord Hall before his ‘dismissive email’ to Earl Spencer last year.
He said: ‘Did you phone Tony Hall to ask him about events? He was sitting on this crucial piece of information. Had you spoken to Tony Hall, you would have discovered Bashir had lied three times.’
Mr Davie told the MPs the key memo had only come to light because he commissioned Lord Dyson’s inquiry – which then unearthed it.