Trade Sec Liz Truss: BBC needs to change "fundamentally"

24 May 2021, 10:48

By Eleanor Walsh

Trade Secretary Liz Truss has told Nick Ferrari that she believes the BBC needs fundamental change in the wake of the Martin Bashir “scandal”

Ms Truss was asked by Nick on Call the Cabinet this morning what the BBC needs to learn, after a report which found Bashir 'deceived' Earl Spencer in order to land a bombshell interview with Princess Diana in 1995.

She said the “BBC needs to look very hard at itself and how it has behaved over this case.”

Nick asked the Trade Secretary how much damage has been done to the broadcaster's reputation and she responded: “The BBC has been a respected institution internationally but we need to protect that reputation,” adding that the broadcaster “needs to take action to deal with this terrible scandal that’s taken place.”

The Trade Secretary declined to go into further detail but said “Fundamentally the way the BBC operates needs to change and I know that my colleague Oliver Dowden is looking at this”.

She refused to comment on whether a separate regulatory body may be needed but concluded that there had been “major failings” at the institution.

Last week the BBC was rocked by a report published by Lord Dyson who concluded that the BBC "fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark" in its investigation into how Martin Bashir secured his 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana involving the use of forged documents.

Fresh claims were made last night after the former England football manager Terry Venables claimed that Bashir has used the “same dubious tactics” against him for two Panorama episodes which aired in 1993 and 1994.

Mr Venables claimed at the time that the documents relating to his financial affairs were “cooked up” but BBC sources say the information contained within the “mocked up graphic” was based on accurate information in contrast to that used in the Princess Diana case. This is disputed by Mr Venables.

The BBC said: "When people raise concerns of this kind about our programmes, of course we look into them.

"The BBC has changed radically over the past 25 years and has significantly better processes and procedures in place to protect contributors, but we also know that it is important to keep learning.'

"The BBC's editorial guidelines have been updated and strengthened since 1996 and are clear about the BBC's responsibility to ensure that any materials used do not distort the meaning of events or mislead audiences."

Conservative peer Robert Hayward last night urged Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to investigate the “Venables affair” and said that there were “striking similarities” between the Panorama investigations.

Mr Venables launched legal action against the BBC at the time but dropped the case after strong denials from the BBC and an agreement from each side to pay their own legal costs.