The big lie: The inside story of the BBC’s Bashir cover-up

How the Corporation betrayed its founding principles to protect senior executives


This article is taken from the December/January 2023 issue of The Critic. It was updated on 16 January 2023. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

“Modern institutions in the end have to operate as the public would wish — and we did. As they have no choice any longer but to be completely transparent. There are no long lasting secrets at the BBC.”

Lord Birt The Harder Path (2002), p.414

It’s none of your fucking business,” snarled a furious Steve Hewlett, Panorama’s editor, as we warned him of what was to become the biggest BBC scandal ever.

I had never seen him lose his temper or self-control before, and it was clear we had brought a hundred-gallon barrel of worms into his office and he wanted it kept firmly shut.

Twenty-seven years later under its new Director-General, Tim Davie, the BBC has finally paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds and personally apologised to both the victims of Martin Bashir’s skulduggery and the BBC’s cover-up operation. 

My investigation seeks to establish how the world’s most trusted news and broadcasting institution turned to deceit and cover-up to save its reputation and that of some executives. I am not concerned here with how Bashir acquired his notorious interview with Princess Diana. That story has been well covered and reported primarily by Lord Dyson’s Report — “The Dyson Investigation”.

Princess Diana opens her heart to Martin Bashir: BBC Panorama Special, 20 November 1995

But what Dyson tried but largely failed to reveal in detail was the BBC’s attempts to conceal the truth of the scandal after it became public knowledge. He devotes a mere six pages (out of a total of 127) to this crucial issue. And to be fair, much has emerged since his report was completed.

There are several dimensions that need exposing before the extent of the cover-up can be grasped. Firstly, one of the Corporation’s more successful evasions was never to acknowledge that Bashir had very little power to do anything on his own as a Panorama reporter without the very closest supervision by a producer. 

Bashir may have lied, cheated, deceived and forged documents but, as I well know, you cannot do anything on a production without discussing and clearing it with the person in charge of you and the entire production — namely the producer. The BBC chose to ignore the role played by his producer. That man was Panorama’s editor, Steve Hewlett.

Bashir was, by Panorama’s standards, a junior reporter with little background. All the more reason for him to come under very strict supervision. Steve Hewlett died in 2017 and cannot answer the charges I make. 

These are twofold. Firstly that if he had done his job then Bashir’s atrocious behaviour would have been spotted within days. Secondly, and more seriously, Hewlett’s fingerprints seem to be over some of the subsequent cover-up — an operation that neither Lord Dyson nor Hewlett’s many friends and colleagues believe he instigated or was party to. 

In my quarter of a century on Panorama I never made a single one of my 125 programmes without every major and minor financial and editorial step and decision being supervised and agreed by my producer. 

Bashir had used forged documents to secure his scoop

The producer is the BBC’s own policeman, and in turn acts as a firewall between the reporter and the next executive in the management chain, namely the editor of the programme. It is their responsibility to make sure that everything transmitted has been obtained in an honest and ethical way, guided by the book of BBC Producer Guidelines (a volume as thick and prescriptive as the Bible).

Problematically, Steve Hewlett destroyed this crucial editorial firewall by himself becoming Bashir’s de facto producer as well as editor of the programme. So to him, by default, fell all responsibility for Bashir’s conduct on the assignment. 

This made him the ringmaster, yet the BBC has never clearly acknowledged Hewlett’s role in the affair. To continue pretending that Bashir alone was responsible for the whole scandal was a lie, and, one has to say it, unfair to Bashir.

At the end of March 1996, a few days before the Mail on Sunday revealed Bashir had used forged documents to secure his scoop, the BBC Head of Weekly Current Affairs, Tim Gardam, interviewed Bashir about the rumours that had been flying around for weeks about his deceit. 

Gardam, my former boss, is a highly intelligent executive with a quick temper and a ruthless sharp-focused interview approach. Under intense interrogation, Bashir finally admitted he had previously lied about the purpose of the bank statements he asked to be forged. He confessed they were to show Earl Spencer to nudge him into advising his sister to give Bashir the interview. This was more than a huge breach of journalistic ethics. The forgery of documents for personal gain can actually be a criminal matter.

Gardam “went cold” when he discovered what Bashir had done, and immediately hand-wrote a long revelatory memorandum to Tony Hall, his boss, then Head of News and Current Affairs at the BBC. This sensational revelation should, of course, have been instantly passed on to the BBC’s Director General and head of all journalism, John Birt. 

“Bashir briefs the press about his Panorama Special: “An Interview with HRH the Princess of Wales”

Incredibly, according to Birt, it was not. Not at the time and not even soon thereafter. In fact, Birt says he never learned of the memorandum until a full quarter of a century later. Indeed, there is not a single document showing he was told. 

This quarter-century of unawareness was out of character with the determined boss I knew. Birt was brought to the Corporation in 1990 to revolutionise BBC News and Current Affairs at a time when it was seen to be a directorate in disgrace. His was a mission to explain and to fight any editorial hanky-panky, overspending or misunderstanding. 

During the Birt revolution, reporters and executives who hadn’t or still didn’t play by his rules, especially on Panorama, were mercilessly relieved of their duties. Reporters’ editorial authority was firmly subverted to BBC staff producers who were directly given their orders by the Head of Weekly Current Affairs. Panorama was sewn into an editorial straitjacket that at a stroke removed the possibility of editorial screw-ups — and there’d been a couple.


Birt as lofty Deputy Director-General of the whole BBC once ignored even my producer and editor and personally went through one of my Panorama programme scripts line by bloody line, ordering style changes where he thought necessary. That’s like the captain of the plane serving drinks to the passengers, and hand-cleaning the toilet area.

In particular, Birt insisted during his absolutist regime on the strictest adherence to the so-called “referral rule” which determined that any programme with high levels of political or legal risk or major public interest had to be referred up. And by up, he meant to himself. No programme ever qualified more for upward referral to the top than the Diana interview.

What an extraordinary decision it was then, not to refer to him the fact that the BBC had just grown a cancer at the heart of its biggest and most controversial scoop ever. 

In whose interest would it have been to keep Birt in ignorance? Who would have gained most by pretending Bashir, although alone to blame, had only made a minor procedural mistake rather than a fundamental ethical and professional deception?

Well let’s take the BBC’s own “high-powered” investigation into the scandal run by Tony Hall, Head of BBC News and Current Affairs and Anne Sloman, Head of BBC TV Weekly Current Affairs, following the revelation of Bashir’s forgeries by the Mail on Sunday in April 1996. 

During a risible “interrogation” for 90 minutes, Bashir performed at Oscar award-winning level, weeping and sobbing and begging forgiveness. The issue of his lies wasn’t even raised. Hall and Sloman concluded that this dreadful reporter was merely an angel with dirty wings who’d been a bit silly in faking documents.

That barmy conclusion was echoed by John Birt who, after receiving Hall’s report on the “investigation”, decided Bashir was “a foolish young man who had done something daft … given all we know [now] It may seem ridiculous but it was believable at the time.” Forging documents. Repeated lying. Foolish?

Lord Dyson poured scorn on this so-called investigation calling it “woefully inefficient.” But what he completely missed was the unbelievable decision not to call Bashir’s producer and editor to the enquiry. Only Steve Hewlett could and should have given independent evidence to reveal exactly what had happened. His absence is one of the great scandals of the whole affair.

Panorama editor Steve Hewlett

Dyson also missed a curious and important account of the scandal in my (now deceased) colleague Richard Lindley’s book Panorama in which he recounted the Bashir affair. Birt had a 90-minute meeting with Tony Hall and Anne Sloman after both of them had been appointed as investigators of the Bashir scandal. 

Subsequently the top Panorama investigative reporter John Ware found Richard Lindley’s original notes about this meeting, during which Anne Sloman told Lindley, “We concluded that faking documents had been going on as a general practice … our business creates monsters … never did Birt express interest in covering his own back, Birt wanted to get to the bottom of the matter.” Surely this conversation could hardly have taken place without Birt having been warned about the nature of Bashir’s lies?

Birt however insists he cannot recollect this crucial meeting. Yet Tony Hall has emphatically stated that “there was a very close relationship between (Birt) right the way down to (Hewlett)”.

Hall also implied that Birt had been conscious of the Hall/Sloman investigation when he revealed: “None of the people involved in that investigation was either easy to fool or close minded. We were not like that … Anne Sloman and John Birt themselves are journalists, so none of us were close-minded. We really weren’t.”

Hall further reports that during the scandal Birt and he seemed to be joined at the hip: “(We worked) really closely with the then Director-General because we worked very closely as a team.” Nevertheless, Birt insists Hall still failed to tell him what really mattered — the extent of Bashir’s lies. 

In an odd statement in his report, Lord Dyson comments: “I do not consider that Lord Birt has sufficiently taken into account the fact that Mr Bashir had admitted lying on a centrally important issue on three occasions”. This, said Dyson, “is my response to the opinion that he [Birt] volunteered during the course of the Investigation interview”.

Not that being unaware of the truth about Bashir was necessarily a bad thing for Birt’s career. One major reason was that his relationship with the BBC Chairman, Marmaduke Hussey, was so bad that the two hadn’t spoken for a year. Only Hussey and the Board of Governors had the power to sack Birt.

At loggerheads: Hussey, left, and Birt

Birt had earlier decided not to inform the Chairman of the impending Diana interview because he thought that Hussey, whose wife was a lady-in-waiting and close confidante of the Queen, would warn the Palace who, in turn, would then order Diana not to do the interview. 

Inevitably when Hussey was finally told about the interview a week before transmission, he went, to misquote the Bard, ape-shit. Birt’s career hung by a spider’s thread. Had Hussey further learned a few weeks later, that the entire setting-up of the interview by Bashir had been one long chapter of lies, deceit and manipulation, it’s hard to see how Birt would not have had to take responsibility and resign. But Hussey never did learn, because that little secret was kept tighter within the Corporation than the lock codes to Fort Knox.

That Hussey detested Birt is no secret. “If I’d been reappointed as Chairman I would have got rid of him,” Hussey said. “He did not have the two prime skills of managing and getting on with the staff.”

At a subsequent investigation into these events by the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in June last year, Birt angrily told the Committee member, John Nicolson: “I hope you are not suggesting Mr Nicolson, that I knew about the [Bashir] lies and failed to reveal them because that is simply not true.” That was but one of several strong denials made by him to the committee and to which Birt has adhered to this day. There is no evidence to the contrary.

Straight after the internal scandal broke, the BBC had craftily got Princess Diana to handwrite a note stating that the fake documents had never been shown to her (true, but they were shown to her brother to get her to talk) and she was happy with the interview. This letter became Bashir’s get-and-stay-out of jail free card, as well as the BBC’s cross of garlic from any bloodthirsty attack by outsiders.

Tom Mangold

So with Bashir effectively exonerated, Tony Hall smoothly reassured the first meeting of the BBC Board of Management after the Mail on Sunday’s bombshell revelations that the BBC was still in a “robust position” and while there may have been a little foolishness on Bashir’s part he was still an “honourable and honest man”. 

Furthermore, there was no question of Bashir trying to mislead or do anything improper with the (forged) document and Diana’s convenient letter showed it had played no part in the Princess’s decision to give the interview. 

Not only that, but the poor lad was “deeply remorseful” about his “incautious” (lovely BBC word that) action. Of these assurances, Lord Dyson would ultimately report with classic judicial restraint: “The minutes of what Lord Hall told the Board indicate that he may not have had an entirely open mind.”

But for her part, Anne Sloman was not so persuaded by Hall’s assurances that there would not be reputational damage to the Corporation. Quietly she wrote a separate and most revealing summary to the Hall report laying out that: “Management will have to decide what action if any to take privately or publicly about Bashir, what to do about his contract, and how long he should stay on Panorama.” Birt, it transpires, never read that crucial note.

Who created and then spread this wicked lie?

So much for the BBC’s “thorough investigation” into the scandal. I’ve gone through Birt’s memoirs, written in 2002, with a Hubble telescope for a single reference to the Bashir scandal, and haven’t found one. The book contains plenty of remembrances of “brave” decisions by Birt over details of the commissioning and transmission of the famous interview and his battle with the Chairman, Marmaduke Hussey, but not one whisper about the tsunami of revelations that hit the BBC when Birt was the boss and held editorial responsibility for News and Current Affairs.

Despite the BBC News and Current Affairs Directorate knowing that Bashir was a dangerous liar and forger of documents, Birt in a letter to John Garrett MP on 10 June 1996 stated:“These [Bashir] allegations were immediately and thoroughly investigated by the BBC … promptly and thoroughly looked into and the BBC has been able independently [emphasis added] to verify that the [forged] documents were put to no use which had any bearing direct or indirect on the Panorama interview.”

Birt subsequently had to confess that statement to the MP was wishful thinking — or rather, “It was false, but it was believed,” as “there is absolutely no way in which anybody was trying to cover up or mislead.”

With the corporate “truth” established that Bashir was an honest and honourable journalist it was, therefore, now more than necessary to show that he was, alas, surrounded by colleagues who were jealous, trouble-making leakers to the press who needed to be sorted out and fired. 

Who created and then spread this wicked lie? Surprisingly, it was the editor of Panorama himself. Here’s what Steve Hewlett and Hall (who didn’t have a clue what was really happening on Panorama), fed to his own Board of Governors. First punishing not Bashir, but the man Bashir ordered to make the forgeries, Matt Wiessler: “We are taking steps to ensure that the graphic designer involved [in the forgeries] — Matt Wiessler — will not work for the BBC again.” 

That punishment of the innocent Wiessler cost the BBC the best part of a million quid compensation paid to him this year. Also: “In addition, between now and summer, we will work to deal with leakers and persistent troublemakers from the programme.” That’s me and my two colleagues — the “Hewlett Three” if you like — who first tried to warn the editor of the developing scandal. We have all since been compensated by the BBC for that smear.

As late as June last year, both Hall and Birt persisted in spreading tales about Panorama’s allegedly poisonous culture. Hall, straight-faced, told members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee investigating the Bashir scandal: “We were dealing with a very difficult and unhealthy programme culture. Steve Hewlett … made that absolutely clear.”

Hewlett’s toxic view of his own programme team was repeated by Birt: “It is clear that everybody involved, starting with Steve Hewlett, believed that there was a massive problem of leaking on the Panorama team which Hewlett addressed.”

The huge BBC press office was ordered to spread the calumny

It is true that Hewlett was obsessed with the possibility that one of the “Three”, my producer colleague Mark Killick – who tried to warn Hewlett about the forgeries – had leaked to the Mail on Sunday. One lunchtime I was ordered out of the canteen and hauled in front of Hewlett and Anne Sloman. Could I confirm Killick had leaked to the Mail on Sunday? “No.” Was I sure? “Yes.” Was I absolutely 100 per cent, stake my life on it sure? “Yes.” Reluctantly I was dismissed and left to return to my cold soup.

I was with Panorama throughout the crisis and you must trust me when I affirm that there were no jealous colleagues, no troublemakers or press leakers. Indeed, the moment I heard on my personal radio that Bashir had got the interview with Diana, I left a train in Wales to phone him and congratulate him. We all revelled in the success of Bashir’s fabulous coup, and lived off his triumph and our adrenaline as long as we could. Incidentally, that’s why there wasn’t a single press leak about the forgeries for five months.

Then it got much worse. Somebody (we’ll get to who shortly) needed to officially brief the huge BBC Press Office — the voice of the BBC itself — about these alleged Panorama assassins who had effectively knifed poor, brilliant, Bashir.

First, the facts. Mark Killick (the designated Brutus) was the first person to learn about the possible forgeries. He told me about them, and I told a third person. We approached Bashir to ask whether the forgeries allegation might be true. He told us all to push off and raise it with the editor.

So we went to see Hewlett not as a delegation, not as complainants, not even as whistle-blowers, merely as loyal Panorama staff, a senior producer, a senior reporter and a former deputy editor, reporting dangerous rumours to their boss. Hewlett’s charming reaction shows without doubt he already knew about the allegation.

What we didn’t know was that our visit fortuitously gave Hewlett the very cover story he so desperately needed. Hewlett, (who I liked enormously, and was my boss before and after the scandal), was a man whose brain could boil water. A big man, with authority and presence, he was in Birt’s words, “a man who took no prisoners”.

Immediately after our painful meeting with him in his office, the programme’s deputy editor, Clive Edwards, who had heard Hewlett shouting at us in his office next door, poked his head into Hewlett’s office and asked what had happened. Hewlett, still livid, told Edwards: “They were jealous and were trying to undermine the Diana programme.” So the Big Lie was born. And that’s the precise moment the BBC’s wretched smear and cover-up campaign was born.

Within days, the huge BBC press office was ordered to spread the calumny, which duly appeared — unverified — in nearly every daily and Sunday national newspaper in Britain. Dyson’s report fails to identify who instructed the press officer to give this briefing to eager journalists, but it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work it out: “It wouldn’t have been [Steve Hewlett’s] style” said Panorama’s dedicated press officer. “He wouldn’t have done that to me,” before adding, “I don’t think”.

How did the world’s most trusted broadcaster handle the news after the Mail on Sunday detonated its IED? It didn’t. When asked about the total BBC silence, a senior BBC executive declared, “After careful consideration, we decided the story was not sufficiently newsworthy.”

So, the scores of BBC editors in news, current affairs, overseas services, all of them of course, “fully independent” in their assessment of what’s news and what isn’t, all decided, miraculously at the very same moment and with perfect synchronisation that the biggest BBC scandal ever was not worth even a line. Now who could possibly have quietly authorised and allowed this total censorship of the output without ulterior motive?

Dyson reports on a Sunday Times story of 28 April 1996 which stated that the day after the Mail on Sunday’s revelations, the editors of Radio 4’s Today, The World at One, PM and The World Tonight programmes found this email message on their computer screen from a senior BBC News and current affairs executive: “If anyone asks about Bashir, the official line is: ‘It’s not interesting.‘” 

John Birt strongly denied any diktat from the top, nor would an instruction to ignore a valid story ever be issued. But Dyson didn’t believe that the censorship had been spontaneous. So who and at what level? The answer is not to be found in the BBC’s archive cupboard, which is almost bare. A few notes here and there, a mere handful of mild interest. A Freedom of Information search has us peering into a dry well.

The BBC’s explanation for this disappearance is that the programme was an exclusive. News has confirmed that any paperwork would have been kept to an absolute minimum, certainly before transmission. Fair enough. But it’s the documents about the cover-up post transmission that really matter.

Internal documents about the scandal were indeed stolen

In a further butt-covering exercise, the BBC implies Martin Bashir may well have destroyed relevant documents “without consideration of the need to maintain them in the BBC archive”. Bashir, a humble contract reporter, destroying highly sensitive and confidential BBC documents? Where were we? Broadcasting House or Wandsworth Prison? 

Above all, where was the one single written document we know about composed by Tim Gardam, head of Weekly Current Affairs, the one where Bashir finally admitted having lied and lied, the one that proves the cover-up? Gone. Vanished. Missing. No longer there. Absent. Gone astray. The dog ate it.

The only reason it ever appeared at all at the Dyson enquiry is because Gardam didn’t realise it had been nicked and brought his own personal copy to the enquiry. And where are all the internal memoranda between Hewlett, Gardam, Sloman, Hall and Birt as the thunder and lightning blitzed for weeks around Broadcasting House? Dunno old boy. Someone appears to have picked the BBC archives clean of them. 

The real humdinger memos were probably mostly handwritten (as was Gardam’s) to avoid proper filing into the system. I also talked to the BBC Archivist at the time, and she explained that anyone with authority could enter the archive, read documents, maybe take them away on a promise to return them. Or not return them.

For example, the cunningly-commissioned letter signed by Princess Diana and apparently exonerating the BBC was initially nowhere to be found. After weeks, it suddenly appeared, deus ex machina, clearly having been purloined by someone and taken home.

A primary source told me last year that Steve Hewlett had last had possession of the letter and kept it as a memento in the office safe. But a curious note in Dyson has raised my eyebrow. It proves amongst many other things that internal documents about the scandal were indeed stolen by an unnamed someone and taken home.

Dyson was told in strict confidence the following regarding the disappearance and sudden re-appearance of the famous Diana letter (my italics emphasis throughout): 

“The [unnamed] person concerned was asked early in 1996 by someone in BBC Management to “guard it [the letter] with his life” (or words to that effect). At some point he took it home for safekeeping and filed it in his study. When he moved house, he took it (and other documents relating to the Diana interview) to his new house. In about early November 2020 he became aware of the news story that the Diana note was missing. He searched for it and found it together with other BBC documents that he had kept. On 10 November he informed the BBC Legal Department. On the same day, someone from the BBC went to his house and collected the Diana note and other BBC documents.”

In which case, where are those documents, held on pain of death it seems, now? Who was authorised by whom to take the crucially important Diana letter and other BBC documents away from the BBC archives to his home and guard them “with his life” for twenty years?

Hewlett was the only person who knew the full truth

Dyson’s decision not to probe a little deeper into some of these odd capers is a pity. As a witness, I both wrote and explained to him that if he didn’t understand the relationship between a Panorama producer and his reporter he simply couldn’t understand how the flagship programme actually made films. Dyson chose largely to ignore this point, leaving the impression that Bashir effectively worked alone. This is simply impossible, unless Hewlett totally failed to supervise him at all — which is most unlikely.

Birt called Bashir “a lone trader”. But that is impossible, for reporters have no editorial power or budget without producer approval. Bashir had no authority to sign off on the £250 paid to the graphic designer for the forgeries. But someone did. 

Bashir had to be vouched for with everyone of importance he met at the Palace, and indeed Hewlett did assure Earl Spencer that Bashir was one of the best reporters he had. Hewlett also had to authorise thousands of pounds in salary and expenses for Bashir, who spent months on the story.

Lord Dyson simply ignores all this to offer a bizarre explanation, stating that Bashir had no producer but had a “supervisor” in Steve Hewlett, his editor. There is no such rank in BBC broadcast journalism. Dyson thus believed there was “insufficient supervision” of Bashir (by Hewlett).

He then adds this most extraordinary rider which, and I write this with great respect for His Lordship, displays a complete lack of understanding of how Panorama works: “I am not persuaded that better supervision would have prevented Mr Bashir’s successful deception.” This is bunkum.

In 2021, Tony Hall in, evidence to the Parliamentary Digital Culture Media and Sport investigation into the scandal, stated categorically that, “Bashir was being managed by Steve Hewlett,” and “Steve Hewlett, the editor of the programme, who worked closely with and supervised Martin Bashir”.

On this, Hall was contradicted by John Birt who stated at the same hearing that, “The third thing that went wrong … is [Bashir] was allowed to act as a lone reporter which was probably relatively unprecedented … but no BBC reporter should again work as a lone trader. You have to have four eyes on the job.”

It pains me as much to say anything positive about Bashir as it does to point a finger at Steve Hewlett, a man to whom I owe a great deal, who was a superb editor and who cannot answer back. But it was not Bashir who should solely have been hung out to dry by the BBC.

Hewlett was the only person who knew the full truth. Yet, I have seen not one document giving Hewlett’s detailed account of the BBC’s biggest screw-up in its 100-year history. The complete absence of any reports about how he handled Bashir remains the biggest scandal of all. 

Bashir’s non-staff contract should have been quietly terminated for breaking every rule in the book, and he should have left the BBC walking into the shadows with flat cap pulled far forward. 

Steve Hewlett should have been invited as early as 1995 to explain just how he “supervised” Bashir and why the whole affair morphed into such a catastrophe for the Corporation. I am certain Tony Hall unwisely trusted Hewlett throughout the scandal and consequently perpetuated Bashir’s alleged innocence to the highest levels.

It is not inconceivable but highly unlikely that Bashir totally deceived Hewlett, who might have been tempted to give Bashir his head on trust. But Hewlett was a class operator and would surely have gamed the entire process of acquiring the biggest interview the BBC had ever landed. 

On this subject Lord Dyson takes the following formal view: “No evidence has been placed before the investigation that Mr Hewlett instigated or was party to the cover-up.”

You might have thought the BBC’s internal and most secret corporate memory would never forget the worst storm that ever drove it on to the rocks. Well, not quite.

After Bashir left the BBC in 1999, he went to Granada TV. There, his behaviour as a reporter who was now working against his former friends and colleagues at the BBC was so vile that the BBC had to send a warning letter to the Managing Editor of Granada threatening legal action against Bashir.

Bashir then went to the United States, where he was twice relieved by his new TV employers of his duties. Once when he tactlessly referred to “Asian babes” in a public speech and the next in speaking of Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska, when he opined that she should receive the same treatment that disobliging slaves once received, namely for someone to urinate and defecate into their mouths.

Now that Bashir was demonstrating his real self on a regular basis, one might have thought the BBC would mop its brow and mutter “Thank God we got rid of him when we did.”

Instead, the Corporation cheerfully re-hired him as a religious correspondent and then quickly promoted him to become the BBC’s Religious Editor.

We still don’t have all the answers. Far from it

The re-hiring was made by James Harding, in whose remit the appointment fell – Tony Hall having meanwhile been promoted to BBC Director-General. Before making the hire, Harding consulted Steve Hewlett. It must have been a most favourable briefing as this was eventually regarded as Harding’s bit of due diligence. The BBC announced Bashir’s appointment thus: “Martin’s track record in enterprising journalism is well known and respected in the industry and amongst our audiences.” 

The enduring attempt to try to cover up the cover-up to this day remains an acid stain on the BBC which cannot just be answered by paying off and apologising to the various victims of this massive deceit.

If Panorama spends its time attacking the malpractices and corruption within Big Oil and Big Pharma and Big Tobacco (I’ve attacked all three in editions I’ve made) then how can we possibly ignore similar behaviour by Big Broadcasting?

Michael Grade, one of the biggest beasts in British television, told Dyson: “The senior [BBC] management all seemed to have a vested interest in the story being stood up and the programme never being tainted, and they ignored what had actually happened, and only an independent investigation could have teased that out.”

The BBC is not full of liars, deceivers, and conmen. But during my 43 years, I could not fail to notice how the executive wagons invariably formed a tight circle whenever under serious attack. That’s why we still don’t have all the answers. Far from it.

So why am I resurrecting all this now? Because I guess for once the lame reporter’s all too familiar excuse must prevail. 

I’m only doing my job. 

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