In a revelation that adds a new layer of intrigue to the controversy surrounding Martin Bashir’s 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana, the BBC is under scrutiny for refusing to disclose a potentially explosive letter it received from Buckingham Palace just days before the groundbreaking broadcast.
The Mail on Sunday has brought to light that this letter, concealed in BBC archives for three decades, was dispatched to then-Director General John Birt merely four days before the interview aired.
Tensions and Secrecy:
The letter, reportedly originating from the Queen’s office, was sent during a period of heightened tension between Buckingham Palace and the BBC.
Diana had recently admitted to royal aides that she had granted Bashir an exclusive interview regarding the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles.
The existence of this concealed document, confirmed through recently released but heavily redacted BBC documents, has sparked renewed demands for transparency.
Historical Context and Request for Release:
Sent on November 16, 1995, the letter’s contents remain undisclosed. Lord Birt, then leading the BBC, chose not to inform BBC chairman Marmaduke Hussey about the interview at Princess Diana’s insistence.
Historians and campaigners are now urging the BBC to end what they label a ‘cover-up’ and release the Palace letter, along with all other related documents, in their entirety.
The plea for transparency follows a prolonged freedom of information battle, which eventually led to the release of 10,000 pages of documents last week.
Queen’s Reaction and Revenge:
The timing of the letter is particularly intriguing, aligning with the Queen’s known fury over the Panorama interview.
In the aftermath of the broadcast, the monarch retaliated by revoking the BBC’s exclusive rights to produce her annual Christmas broadcast.
Watched by over 20 million viewers, the Panorama episode prompted the Queen to encourage Prince Charles and Princess Diana to divorce.
Longstanding Controversy and Public Interest:
The controversy surrounding Bashir’s deceptive tactics persisted for years. In 1996, claims emerged that Bashir had forged bank statements, leading to a BBC inquiry that was criticized as a ‘whitewash.’
Only in 2021, following a formal inquiry by High Court judge Lord Dyson, did the truth emerge.
The Dyson inquiry concluded that Bashir had faked bank statements, and the BBC had concealed vital information about his actions.
Prince William, in a strongly worded statement, asserted that the Panorama interview contributed to the breakdown of his parents’ marriage.
BBC’s Resistance and Calls for Transparency:
Criticism has been directed at the BBC for obstructing freedom of information requests related to the scandal.
While the Section 37 exemption allows public bodies to withhold communications with the Royal Family, campaigners and the Information Commissioner’s Office contend that the BBC has the discretion to release the letter and other materials in their entirety.
Calls for transparency emphasize the public interest in understanding the events surrounding this historic and controversial interview.
Closing Statement from the BBC:
The BBC, defending its stance, stated that it takes its responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act seriously.
It cited the Section 37 exemption, emphasizing the need for a “safe space” for a free and frank exchange of information between the BBC and the Royal Household.
Buckingham Palace has chosen not to comment on the matter, and Lord Birt was unavailable for comment at the time of reporting.
The withholding of the Palace letter continues to fuel speculation about potential hidden revelations.Share on Facebook «||» Share on Twitter «||» Share on Reddit «||» Share on LinkedIn