The reputation of the UK broadcaster has been left “tarnished” following an independent report by Lord Dyson into how the journalist scooped the infamous Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995. The report found Mr Bashir was guilty of a “serious breach” of conduct. The Government is in negotiations with the BBC about the next five years of the £159-a-year licensing fee. Reports suggest it could be “cut or frozen for the next five years in the wake of the scandal”.
A senior Government source told The Times: “At a time when every Government department is being asked to tighten their belt, there’s an argument the corporation should do so too.”
The source added that the breach in conduct executed by Mr Bashir “tarnished” its reputation and is likely to influence the current fee negotiations.
The fee, which currently raises £3.2 billion for the BBC, must be paid by anyone watching TV programmes live or on any online service.
On Thursday, Lord Dyson uncovered evidence that Mr Bashir faked documents and used “deceitful behaviour” to scoop the interview with Diana.
Lord Dyson found the BBC covered up what it had learned about the manner in which Bashir had secure the interview, which was watched by 20 million people.
He said: “I am satisfied that the BBC covered up in its press logs such facts as it had been able to establish about how Mr Bashir secured the interview.”
Media Minister Oliver Dowden warned the Government would consider whether further reform of governance at the BBC was needed following the findings from Lord Dyson’s report.
He wrote on Twitter: “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.”
MPs further labelled the BBC as “complacent” for its attitude towards declining audiences as data suggests almost 200,000 people per year are cancelling their licence fee in favour of online streaming services like Netflix.
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One user fumed: “The @BBC has proved itself untrustworthy so often now it is impossible for it to remain funded by the tax payer.
“It is unfit for purpose. @BorisJohnson you must #DefundTheBBC.”
Another wrote: “I hope you’re hanging your heads in shame @BBCPanorama.”
In the face of mounting pressure, Scotland Yard is being urged to open their own probe into the incident.
In a statement, it said: “In March 2021, the MPS 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.”