Ex-BBC exec QUITS Ofcom over Diana fallout

Ex-BBC exec QUITS Ofcom over Diana fallout: Producer involved in 1996 internal investigation into Martin Bashir’s Panorama interview steps down from board role with regulator

  • Tim Suter has left his role with the broadcast regulator, it revealed in a statement
  • Ofcom’s chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes said it was by ‘mutual agreement’
  • He was managing editor of weekly programmes in BBC News and current affairs
  • Suter was one of the executives who quizzed Bashir about the faked documents

An ex-BBC executive who was part of the 1996 internal investigation into Martin Bashir’s interview with Princess Diana has quit Ofcom.

Tim Suter has left his role with the broadcast regulator by ‘mutual agreement’, it revealed in a statement today.

Ofcom’s chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes said: ‘By mutual agreement, Tim Suter, Ofcom board member and chair of Ofcom’s content board, is stepping down with immediate effect. We would like to thank Tim for his contribution to Ofcom.’

Suter was previously the managing editor of weekly programmes in BBC News and current affairs.

He spoke to graphic artist Mr Wiessler and was one of the executives who quizzed Bashir about the faked documents.

Suter was at the BBC for 15 years, having started as a radio drama producer before moving on to documentaries and then joining Newsnight. 

Tim Suter has left his role with the broadcast regulator, it revealed in a statement today

The former producer was a founding partner at Ofcom in 2003 and was responsible for all aspects of content regulation.

Among the issues he handled was the reform of the rights framework for the independent production sector.

Earlier in his career, in 1999, he joined the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as a specialist advisor to the Secretary of State.

He was later appointed Head of Broadcasting Policy, overseeing the 2003 Communications Act and the creation of Ofcom.

The news comes after it emerged the Met are assessing Lord Dyson’s report on the BBC’s 1995 Panorama interview with Diana to see if there is any new evidence.

Scotland Yard said in a statement that they had determined in March that ‘it was not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity in connection with a documentary broadcast in 1995, but should any significant new evidence emerge it would be assessed’.

But they added today: ‘Following the publication of Lord Dyson’s report we will assess its contents to ensure there is no significant new evidence.’

Richard Ayre, then BBC controller of editorial policy, believed Bashir may have committed a crime when he used fake bank slips to secure his 1995 interview with Princess Diana (above)

During an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday it was put to the Justice Secretary that some people say the police should be involved following Lord Dyson’s inquiry.

Robert Buckland replied: ‘That, of course, is a matter for the police and the independent prosecutorial authorities, and I’m not going to say anything to prejudge or to influence any such line of inquiry.

‘But I think anybody reading the headlines and the summary of Lord Dyson’s findings will be struck by his use of those words, fraud and deception and the like, and clearly those sort of issues, I’m afraid, could and do arise.’

Asked if a second inquiry was needed to look at wider questions not in the remit of Lord Dyson’s work, such as the handling of whistleblowers, Mr Buckland said: ‘I think all of us need to carefully comb through the report and if indeed there are issues that specifically Lord Dyson wasn’t able, due to the remit that he was given to look at, then there should be, and I’m sure there will be, an opportunity to do just that. ‘

Critics say the report had provided ‘clear and unequivocal evidence’ that must be pursued.

Yesterday it emerged that Richard Ayre, the BBC’s controller of editorial policy in 1995, believed Bashir, the BBC’s former religion editor, may have committed a crime when he used fake bank statements to secure his interview with Diana.

In evidence to Lord Dyson, Mr Ayre said: ‘I have no doubt that if he did what is, as I understand it, alleged, that of course would have been unacceptable.’

Richard Ayre, then BBC controller of editorial policy, believed Bashir may have committed a crime when he used fake bank slips to secure his 1995 interview with Princess Diana

He suggested it would be a criminal offence to approach anyone with a forged document that defamed people. ‘Of course it would have been indefensible,’ he added.

A lawyer for Earl Spencer’s former head of security, Alan Waller, made an official complaint to Scotland Yard Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick in January alleging potential fraud. 

He accused Bashir of ‘dishonest conduct’ and said the BBC had ‘benefited’ while being aware that his actions were ‘unlawful’.

But after spending three months assessing the claims, police announced they would be taking no further action.

That decision was described as a ‘farce’ yesterday by a former head of royal protection, who said many questions had been left unanswered.

Ex-chief superintendent Dai Davies, who once led the Metropolitan Police royal protection unit, said: ‘It seems to me there is clear and unequivocal evidence that the Met Police should be at the very least investigating these allegations. 

‘I simply cannot understand why they won’t investigate given what I understand from the testimony may be a crime.

‘It seems there’s one rule for the BBC and one rule for the rest of us. Normally there would be a criminal inquiry before a civil inquiry.

‘I’m absolutely flabbergasted that there was not enough basic evidence of forgery and fraud here. It beggars belief.’

Ex-chief superintendent Dai Davies said: ‘It seems to me that there is clear and unequivocal evidence that the Met Police should be at the very least investigating these allegations’

Mr Davies added: ‘What is it the Met don’t understand about the word dishonest? 

‘My concern is that others may have covered this up and if it was a crime, they may have conspired to conceal forged documents and that concealment could amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.’

Key conclusions of yesterday’s bombshell report that brought shame on the BBC

Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray, who leads the force on specialist crime, announced in March that legal advice had been sought from the Crown Prosecution Service and independent lawyers before it was decided not to launch a probe. 

The commander has previously come under fire for not pursuing another alleged scandal in 2019, after Virginia Roberts alleged she was trafficked to Britain by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with Prince Andrew, who denies the claim.

Yesterday, a Met spokesman said: ‘In March 2021, the [force] determined it was not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity in connection with a documentary broadcast in 1995 but should any significant new evidence emerge it would be assessed.

‘Following the publication of Lord Dyson’s report, we will assess its contents to ensure there is no significant new evidence.’

Last night Prince Harry blasted the 1995 BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana as ‘unethical’ while furious William said Martin Bashir’s ‘lurid and false claims’ to secure it fuelled the ‘paranoia and isolation’ of their mother’s final years.

The Duke of Cambridge said Bashir’s deceit in obtaining his 1995 interview with Princess Diana hastened his parents’ divorce and ‘hurt countless others’ in an unprecedented broadside against the shamed BBC. 

In a statement last night, Prince William told of his ‘indescribable sadness’ that the controversial Panorama interview increased his mother’s ‘fear, paranoia and isolation’ in her final years. Pictured: Diana with her sons 

His brother Prince Harry – who is based in California – also responded to Lord Dyson’s damning report into how the interview was obtained, saying his mother ‘lost her life because of this’. 

The Duke of Sussex thanked those who took ‘some form of accountability’ for ‘owning it’, but said ‘the ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took [Diana’s] life’.

In a statement last night, Prince William laid bare his ‘indescribable sadness’ that his precious final years with his mother had been marred by the isolation the historic Panorama interview caused. 

What ‘saddens’ him the most was that should a 1996 investigation into claims Diana was hoodwinked by Bashir have been conducted ‘properly’, the princess would have known she was ‘deceived’ prior to her death in 1997, he claimed.

He said the interview now held ‘no legitimacy’, had established a ‘false narrative’ for 25 years, and the BBC’s failings had let his mother, his family and the public down. 

The Duke of Cambridge read his bombshell statement to camera in a courtyard at Kensington Palace – his London residence and the home of his late mother. 

Both William and the Duke of Sussex yesterday received ‘unconditional apology’ letters from the BBC over Bashir’s conduct and the subsequent cover-up now fully laid bare 25 years on.

Buckingham Palace and Prince Charles’ official residence Clarence House have also had correspondence, it can be revealed. 

Appearing on a Panorama special about the scandal last night, the princess’s brother Earl Spencer linked his sister’s death to the BBC and the crisis of trust he claimed that engulfed her after she was deceived by Bashir. 

His devastating verdict came as a judge ruled the shamed journalist hoodwinked the princess with an elaborate fiction that painted some of those closest to her as traitors. 

The ‘rogue reporter’ commissioned fake bank statements to secure his interview with Princess Diana – but covered up his ‘deceitful behaviour’ in a ‘shocking blot’ on the BBC’s near 100-year history.

The statements wrongly suggested that Earl Spencer’s security boss was in the pay of tabloid journalists and a shadowy company linked to the security services. 

His lies landed the Panorama reporter the interview of the century and multiple awards – but hastened the end of Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles and saw her stripped of her HRH status just two years before her death.

Bashir maintained that despite the fake bank statements a note from Diana herself showed that she had not been affected by this in her decision to be interviewed by him – an interview of which he remained ‘immensely proud’.

Diana’s brother Earl Spencer last night appeared on another Panorama special, titled: ‘Princess Diana, Martin Bashir and the BBC’ which aimed to lay bare the full extent of the scandal. 

In it, he says: ‘The irony is I met Martin Bashir on the 31st of August 1995, because exactly two years later she died. And I do draw a line between the two events. 

‘It’s quite clear from the introduction that I sat in on the 19th of September 1995 everyone was going to be made untrustworthy, and I think that Diana did lose trust in really key people. 

‘This is a young girl in her mid-30s who has lived this extraordinarily turbulent and difficult time in the public eye. 

‘She didn’t know who to trust and in the end, when she died two years later, she was without any form of real protection.’  

Earl Spencer said ‘rogue reporter’ Bashir’s strategy to get close his sister was to make ‘everyone untrustworthy’. 

He said the journalist was ‘very good at amplifying people’s anxieties’ and making one think he would ‘save you in a difficult and dangerous world’. 

The BBC is also returning all awards the explosive interview accrued, including a Bafta TV gong won in 1996.

Bashir announced he was stepping down from his role as the BBC News religion editor last week on health grounds.

Patrick Jephson, the Princess of Wales’ private secretary at the time, also appeared in last night’s documentary.

He told Panorama that Diana was ‘cast adrift’ from her ‘royal support structure that had guided and safeguarded her for so many years’ because of Bashir’s claims and the fallout from the interview.  

Mr Jephson added: ‘Inevitably it made her vulnerable to people who were unable properly to look after her.’  

The documentary also shows a note written from Diana to her brother Earl Spencer after he informed her of Bashir’s elaborate allegations that she was being spied on.

The note – addressed to the earl with Diana’s pet name for her brother ‘Carlos’ – reads: ‘Darling Carlos, I so appreciated the contents of our telephone call this morning, it all makes complete sense to what is going on around me at this present time. 

”They’ underestimate the Spencer strength! Lots of love from Duch x’. 

The programme also revealed a confidential internal BBC management document written by the outgoing head of TV Current Affairs, Tim Gardam.

It states that Bashir had misled his bosses by denying he had shown the fake bank statements to anyone. 

The journalist later admitted that he had, in fact, shown them to Earl Spencer in order to ‘foster’ their relationship. 

A statement drawn up by former BBC director-general Tony Hall for the corporation’s governors in April 1996 described the fakes as just ‘graphics’ and said Martin Bashir had no explanation for why he’d created them.

He went on: ‘I believe he is, even with his lapse, honest and an honourable man’. 

In the same statement to the BBC’s governors, Mr Hall also acknowledged that Bashir regarded Spencer as ‘the best route’ to ‘get to the Princess of Wales.’

Film and theatre director and former BBC governor Sir Richard Eyre – who attended the April 1996 meeting – told Panorama that had Tony Hall disclosed to the governors that Bashir had lied, they would have insisted on a full inquiry.

He said: ‘The fact that Bashir lied should have been made clear to us, but in my memory, it never was. 

‘Constitutionally we, the governors, deserved at the very least to be given an honest report of what was going on. 

‘We can see now that the false bank statements were the lever that opened the doors to the access to Diana. 

‘If we had known at the time, there’s no question that this would have been ruthlessly investigated, because [the governors] were very, very, very hot on a sense of propriety of the organisation.’

Source: Read Full Article