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Government to consider BBC governance reforms after Panorama interview report

BBC Broadcasting House in London - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The government will look at whether reforms of BBC governance are required in the wake of Lord Dyson’s “damning” report on the 1995 Panorama Diana interview, ministers have said.

Lord Dyson’s findings that the broadcaster covered up the “deceitful behaviour” of journalist Martin Bashir in the handling of his interview with Diana, Princess of Wales was met with criticism from her two sons.

The corporation sent personal apologies to the Prince of Wales, the dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, and Diana’s brother Earl Spencer.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the government will consider whether further changes are needed at the BBC following Lord Dyson’s report.

He said: “Lord Dyson’s report reveals damning failings at the heart of the BBC.

“We will now reflect on Lord Dyson’s thorough report and consider whether further governance reforms at the BBC are needed in the mid-term Charter review.

“I welcome the fact that the new leadership launched this independent inquiry and expect them to ensure that this can never happen again.”

The royal charter forms the constitutional basis for the BBC and sets out its mission and public purpose, as well as its governance and regulatory arrangements.

The current charter started on January 1 2017 and ends on December 31 2027.

The mid-term review of the charter, due in 2022, will focus on governance and regulatory arrangements, but not the broadcaster’s mission or funding.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland said the government had a responsibility to look at whether the BBC needs reform in the wake of Lord Dyson’s inquiry.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The government has to, in the light of these serious findings, consider the matter very carefully and comprehensively indeed.

“Because it wasn’t just the decision of a reporter or a production team, there were decisions made much further up the chain about the conduct of these individuals that have now proved, according to Lord Dyson, to be unfounded and wrong.

“And therefore government does have a responsibility to look very carefully to see whether the governance of the BBC does need reform in the light of these devastating findings.”

Buckland that the BBC had “many political enemies” and he was asked if Boris Johnson would use the Panorama incident as an “excuse” to “tackle the BBC”.

He replied: “I don’t think anybody should be using this very serious set of revelations as an excuse to do or not do anything.

“The facts, sadly, speak very much for themselves.

“We’ve heard the reaction of the family and I think it’s incumbent upon everybody to soberly and calmly go through what has happened here, and to make appropriate changes in order to ensure that this sort of thing can never and should never happen again.”

Downing Street insisted the review of the BBC will not look at its editorial independence.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I would point you to the details of the mid-term charter review which, as you know, takes place between 2022 and 2024 and it can only look at the way the BBC is governed and regulated.”

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