Last week, a report detailing Martin Bashir and the BBC’s actions surrounding getting the famous Princess Diana Panorama interview in 1995 was released. This report is called the Dyson report because it was prepared by high-profile lawyer and judge John Dyson (Lord Dyson). Lord Dyson was asked by the BBC to independently investigate if there was any deceit or other wrongdoing when Martin Bashir, a then-BBC employee, tried to convince Princess Diana to be interviewed on BBC program Panorama. This interview aired in November 1995 and was so explosive that it essentially forced the Queen to call for Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s divorce.
You can read my summary of the entire 127-page Dyson report here, but here are the main points found by Dyson’s investigation:
- Martin Bashir lied to, manipulated, and deceived both Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother, as well as Princess Diana herself;
- The BBC was complicit in Bashir’s actions as it did not supervise him well enough and made excuses for his behaviour; and
- The BBC actively tried to make the story go away by performing an incomplete in-house investigation of the situation in 1996, not censuring Bashir, and not covering the story at all in its news programming.
On the day of the Dyson report’s release, both William and Harry released statements about it. These statements are very different in tone, so let’s go through them one by one.
Prince William’s response
Kensington Palace released the following response on behalf of Prince William:
In addition to the release of this statement to the press pool, Prince William also delivered the remarks in the statement in front of a pool camera at Kensington Palace. You can see the video of him reading the statement below:
Here is what I picked up on from William’s statement:
- The language is STRONG. It clearly calls the BBC a group of incompetent, evasive, deceitful liars. This is almost unheard of language from a future king about a national broadcaster (or anything/one);
- It puts a good deal of the dissolution of his parents’ marriage on the BBC. Again, extremely strong language;
- The language around his mother, Princess Diana, evokes so much hurt and sadness. He was just a child when his mother died, and for him to say that the last few years of his time with his mother was tainted by what this interview did is just devastating;
- He refers to Princess Diana as “my mother”, not “our mother”. Lots has been made of this, and I would like to know your thoughts on it. It could either be seen as language that William didn’t think twice about; after all, the statement is on his behalf and his behalf alone. On the other hand, it could be seen as a swipe at Harry and the fact that he feels like an only child;
- Re: the point above, I would love to know if William knew that Harry was also going to release a statement on the Dyson report. If so, this would lead me to think that William was trying to twist the knife a bit with the “my mother” language. Actually, now that I think of it, both statements were embargoed until 10pm on the day they were released, so William must have known that Harry had written a statement, if not read Harry’s statement in full. So yeah, I would argue that William’s choice of language was deliberate; and
- I don’t think that William should have used the term “fake news”. I understand what he was trying to say with it, but that term has been co-opted by Donald Trump and his supporters in such a huge way that it becomes way too political a statement for a member of the BRF to use.
Prince Harry’s response
Some thoughts on Harry’s statement:
- Harry used his official royal monogram, the one he used in official correspondence during his time as a senior working member of the BRF. It was argued a bit on social media that this use is okay because Harry is sending out the statement in his personal capacity rather than in a working capacity. I don’t know how I feel about it. He easily could have not used any monogram, which is what most of us regular folk do. But it feels to me like he wanted to relive the glory of his official royal status a bit;
- This statement reads as much less angry and aggressive than William’s;
- The first line, about how Princess Diana dedicated her life to service, mirrors the “service is universal” language that Harry and Meghan released after Queen Elizabeth officially removed their royal patronages earlier this year;
- The second sentence, which talks about “a culture of exploitation and unethical practices”, is again mirroring language about how Harry and Meghan feel about their relationship with the press. This language continues in the second paragraph. The entire statement is as much about Harry’s hurt and struggles as it is about his mother’s;
- The second paragraph begins with language around taking accountability and owning negative actions. This language mirrors Meghan’s words about Kate taking accountability and owning having made Meghan cry before her wedding (allegedly). The language throughout this statement is much more California, much more about feelings and therapy language; and
- The last paragraph is both a tribute to his late mother and a call to action to continue the work that she did.
Martin Bashir’s responses
Martin Bashir, the BBC reporter and cause of all of this mess, remains unrepentant. He released the following remarks after the Dyson report was released:
I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don’t believe we did.
Everything we did in terms of the interview was as she wanted, from when she wanted to alert the palace, to when it was broadcast, to its contents … My family and I loved her.
Even in the early 1990s, there were stories and secretly recorded phone calls. I wasn’t the source of any of that.
So he’s learned nothing, is laying blame elsewhere, and is claiming that he, a supposedly objective BBC journalist, “loved” her. Mkay. I don’t have the time to get into what I think of Martin Bashir, but it’s not positive. Let’s leave it at that.
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