Lord Hall, who presided over Panorama whitewash, forced to quit post

Lord Hall, who presided over Panorama whitewash, forced to quit post

May 23, 2021

Humiliation of Lord Hall: As Martin Bashir finally breaks cover to apologise to William and Harry, the BBC chief who presided over the Panorama whitewash is forced to quit prestigious post at National Gallery

  • Lord Hall resigned as chairman of the prestigious National Gallery yesterday
  • He was heavily criticised for leading a ‘woeful’ review that cleared Martin Bashir
  • Bashir defended himself after being lambasted by Lord Dyson’s report 
  • Said he was ‘deeply sorry’ for the hurt he caused Princes William and Harry
  • He insisted he had not wronged Diana and claimed she did not trust Earl Spencer

Former BBC boss Lord Hall, a towering figure in Britain’s media and cultural world for nearly three decades, yesterday quit his prestigious public job in humiliation over the Martin Bashir scandal.

The peer’s resignation as chairman of the National Gallery comes after he was heavily criticised for leading a ‘woeful’ review that cleared the rogue reporter of wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Bashir broke cover to defend himself after being lambasted by Lord Dyson’s damning report into his bombshell 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana.

While the reporter said he was ‘deeply sorry’ for the hurt he caused Princes William and Harry, he insisted in an interview with the Sunday Times that he had not wronged their mother, and claimed that she did not trust her brother Earl Spencer, who was crucial in bringing Bashir’s deception to light.

Lord Hall’s resignation marked an ignominious end to a stellar career, mainly at the BBC where he was director-general for seven years and credited with revolutionising news coverage. Despite his resignation, the 70-year-old still faces questions over what part, if any, he played in the BBC’s decision to rehire Bashir to cover religion in 2016.

Former BBC boss Lord Hall (pictured), a towering figure in Britain’s media and cultural world for nearly three decades, yesterday quit his prestigious public job in humiliation over the Martin Bashir scandal

With pressure on Scotland Yard to investigate the BBC and Bashir (the Diana interview, pictured), the scandal is unlikely to abate. Earl Spencer has written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick alleging that his sister was the victim of blackmail and fraud 

Yesterday Lord Hall admitted that his continued presence at the National Gallery, which he joined last year, would be a ‘distraction’.

With pressure on Scotland Yard to investigate the BBC and Bashir, the scandal is unlikely to abate. 

Earl Spencer has written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick alleging that his sister was the victim of blackmail and fraud.

There is also the possibility that Lord Hall, who was awarded the CBE in 2016, might be called to give evidence before any future Commons hearing into the affair.

Yesterday’s dramatic developments came as:

  • It was revealed Prince William secured the approval of both the Queen and Prince Charles before delivering his scathing attack on the BBC on Thursday evening;
  • Bashir faced claims that he fed Diana’s paranoia by allegedly planting a bug in her apartment; 
  • It emerged that Earl Spencer was so incensed by Bashir’s dirty tricks that he tried to thwart his career by getting the Queen’s private secretary – his brother-in-law – to ‘have a word’ with BBC bosses about the reporter’s behaviour; 
  • Concerns were raised about the closeness between the BBC and Ofcom, following the departure of ex-Corporation man Tim Suter from the broadcasting watchdog; 
  • Panorama veteran Tom Mangold warned of uglier revelations to come about Bashir and the cover-up.

Meanwhile, Bashir (pictured this month) broke cover to defend himself after being lambasted by Lord Dyson’s damning report into his bombshell 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana 

In his resignation statement, Lord Hall said: ‘I have always had a strong sense of public service and it is clear my continuing in the role would be a distraction to an institution I care deeply about… I am very sorry for the events of 25 years ago and I believe leadership means taking responsibility.’

The independent inquiry by Lord Dyson found Bashir was unreliable and dishonest, and that the Corporation fell short of its high standards when answering questions about the interview.

It also found that Bashir seriously breached BBC rules by faking documents, which he showed to Earl Spencer to obtain the interview.

Royal biographer Penny Junor said Lord Hall’s resignation was ‘the honourable and right thing to do because what happened at the BBC was disgraceful’.

Writer and broadcaster Hugo Vickers added: ‘We have lost faith in him and once you have lost faith in a public figure, that [resignation] is the least they can do, isn’t it? He claims to be doing the honourable thing, but he might have been a bit more honourable earlier on. I think he has resigned in a very mealy-mouthed way.’

While the reporter said he was ‘deeply sorry’ for the hurt he caused Princes William and Harry, he insisted in an interview with the Sunday Times that he had not wronged their mother, and claimed that she did not trust her brother Earl Spencer (pictured), who was crucial in bringing Bashir’s deception to light 

Lord Hall was director of news and current affairs at the BBC from 1993 until 2001, and has been criticised for his handling of the Panorama scandal of his watch. 

When The Mail on Sunday first reported allegations about fake documents in 1996, Hall led an internal investigation, and described Bashir as ‘honest’ and an ‘honourable man’.

After leaving the BBC after that stint he became chief executive of the Royal Opera House. He ran the Covent Garden institution for a decade, before returning to the BBC as director-general.

He was brought back as a ‘safe pair of hands’ after the resignation of George Entwistle following a furore over false claims made on Newsnight about the former Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine.

Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which scrutinises the BBC, said he wanted to know why Bashir was rehired as a correspondent in 2016 – when Lord Hall was director-general – and later promoted to religion editor. He said there was a need to strengthen editorial policy at the BBC, with less ‘kowtowing’ to the ‘talent’.

Last night one senior BBC broadcaster told The Mail on Sunday there was ‘deep rage’ within the Corporation at the decision to re-appoint Bashir, and dismissed Lord Hall’s 1996 report as ‘a shameless whitewash’. The source added that the BBC’s attempts to try to undermine The Mail on Sunday’s original story ‘was a truly terrible reflection on the culture at the time’.

Lord Hall (pictured) was director of news and current affairs at the BBC from 1993 until 2001, and has been criticised for his handling of the Panorama scandal of his watch

Elsewhere yesterday, Bashir was accused of feeding Princess Diana’s paranoia by planting a listening device in her apartment, and then hiring a security team to sweep for bugs. The claims surfaced in notes taken by author Sally Bedell Smith during a 1998 interview with Earl Spencer for her biography of his sister. She handed the notes over to Lord Dyson as part of his inquiry.

Last night, she told The Mail on Sunday that she had confirmed Earl Spencer’s claims at the time with a former member of Diana’s staff, who told her Bashir ‘entered Diana’s flat with a security team, made a beeline for the radio and produced this bug’.

‘They don’t know whether it was planted by Bashir but he knew straightaway where to find it.’

The former staff member declined to comment last night. 

Source: Read Full Article