Long-lost BBC documentary reveals how Corporation bosses plotted to keep Martin Bashir’s Diana interview secret – not even telling their ‘palace loyalist’ Chairman until the day the press were informed in case he tried to stop it
- BBC bosses plotted to keep Martin Bashir’s interview with Princess Diana secret
- Chairman Marmaduke Hussey was kept in the dark until the media were told
- Hussey ‘was a palace loyalist who would have tried to prevent the interview’
A long-lost documentary reveals how BBC bosses plotted to keep Martin Bashir’s interview with Princess Diana secret by not even telling their chairman until the Press were informed in case he tried to stop it.
The Arena series The Princess and Panorama, aired in 2005 to mark the 10th anniversary of Bashir’s scoop, disclosed how Diana told Buckingham Palace just before BBC executives briefed their newsroom.
In the programme, John Birt, Tony Hall, Richard Ayre and Tim Gardam all recounted how chairman Marmaduke Hussey, a palace loyalist, was kept in the dark until the media were told about the exclusive.
Hussey, a peer whose widow Lady Susan was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen and who reportedly felt betrayed by the episode, is likely to have sought to prevent the interview from being broadcast.
Diana informed the palace at 9.15am in November 1995, while Hall, who would later become director-general, told his newsroom at 9.30am.
Birt, then director-general, told the programme: ‘And indeed we were going to tell Hussey at the same time.’ The Press Association, which sends news to the media, was alerted at 10am. Hall said: ‘And then all hell let loose.’
BBC bosses plotted to keep Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana secret
Buckingham Palace then took its revenge by summoning the executives to a ‘showdown’ where their lost their status with the household. The Times reports ITN was tasked with producing the Queen’s Christmas message.
Richard Ayre, controller of editorial policy, said in the documentary: ‘It’s pretty clear to me that if at any point we told the royal liaison office that we were thinking of trying to get an interview with the Princess of Wales, first of all it would leak, secondly it would never happen.
‘We knew from Martin Bashir that the princess herself was convinced that if it became widely known, certainly if it became known at the palace, it would be stopped.’
Birt said: ‘Marmaduke Hussey… was a Prince Charles loyalist, he was increasingly concerned about Princess Diana. On a number of occasions he tried to poison her reputation with me.’
Tim Gardam, head of weekly programmes, said that had ‘the director-general told the chairman… knowing the sort of man the chairman was, with his sense of noblesse oblige, of honour, Duke Hussey could only have gone to the palace.’
John Birt, Tony Hall, Richard Ayre and Tim Gardam all recounted how chairman Marmaduke Hussey (pictured) was kept in the dark until even the media were told about the exclusive
The details were revealed in the Arena series documentary in 2005, which originally drew two million viewers to BBC2 and has not been put on iPlayer.
A BBC spokesman told the Times that Lord Dyson, former Master of the Rolls whose damning report concluded that Bashir had hoodwinked Diana so he could secure his world exclusive, was given access to the show in his inquiry.
During the 1995 interview, Diana famously remarked ‘there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded’.
Diana and Prince Charles’ two sons have both condemned the interview following the Dyson Inquiry. The Duke of Cambridge said Bashir’s deceit in obtaining his 1995 interview hastened his parents’ divorce and ‘hurt countless others’ in an unprecedented broadside against the BBC.
The BBC will expected to issue the findings of its investigation into how Bashir was rehired as religion editor in 2016 when Hall was director-general soon.
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