BBC reopens ‘interview of the century’ investigation

BBC journalist Martin Bashir allegedly produced false documents to convince Diana to accept an interview about her private life.

On November 20, 1995, exactly twenty-five years ago, the BBC made history by broadcasting the most incredible interview the British have heard from the royal family. Eyes rimmed with kohl and a fragile look, Princess Diana unboxed everything about her failed marriage to Charles. His famous replica : There were three of us in this marriage, it was a bit crowded ”, in a transparent allusion to Camilla Parker Bowles, the Prince of Wales’ longtime mistress, has passed into posterity.

Equally incredible is the frankness with which Diana approaches her depressive episodes and bulimia – “You fill your stomach five or six times a day, it gives you a feeling of comfort, but it’s temporary” -, insisting that this disorder is only a symptom of his discomfort. Gold, “People decided that my bulimia was the problem, and that Diana was unstable”, she says. Perhaps the worst part of this succession of revelations is this moment when she casts doubts about Charles’ ability to one day become king: “This supreme role would impose enormous constraints on him, I don’t know if he will be able to adapt. “

The existence of false documents

Some 23 million Britons watch the revenge of a princess broken by lack of love in front of their television. Pure dynamite, devastating for the palace, which had tried until then to keep up appearances.

This November 20 in the evening, the Queen and Prince Philippe are out, and give the change without showing the slightest external sign of panic. Buckingham Palace’s reaction was not long in coming, however: Elizabeth II demanded that Diana and Charles divorce her, and the BBC lost exclusivity to broadcast her Christmas speech, a tradition dating back to her grandfather George. V.

But the news goes well beyond an anniversary date: in early November, Tim Davie, the new director general of the BBC, agreed to relaunch the investigation into the conditions for obtaining the interview of Diana by Martin Bashir, an in-house journalist also passed on to posterity for his series of interviews with Michael Jackson in the early 2000s. In 1995, Bashir was 32 years old, and no one expected this near-unknown on a scoop for which all correspondents royals would have damned themselves.

Very quickly, however, doubts hovered over his methods: it appeared that the young Londoner, recruited at the end of the 1980s by the prestigious public broadcasting company to work, among other things, on his investigative program Panorama, used fake bank statements in preparation for interview with the Princess of Wales. The BBC conducts a first internal investigation, but Tony Hall, one of its managers, then in charge of news (he will become managing director in 2013 and until mid-2020), concludes that the journalist behavedé “like an honest man”. If he recognizes the existence of false documents, he considers that they had no impact on getting the interview.

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