'Cultural change' needed at BBC says minister in wake of Bashir

‘Cultural change’ is needed at the BBC says minister as he slams corporation’s ‘we know best’ attitude in the wake of the Martin Bashir scandal

  • Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden accused BBC of having ‘we know best’ attitude
  • Lord Dyson said BBC’s Martin Bashir used ‘deceit’ to obtain 1995 Diana interview 
  • Mr Dowden said BBC needs ‘to improve its culture’ to stop this happening again
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to rule out prospect of criminal prosecutions

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has accused the BBC of adopting a ‘we know best’ attitude in the scandal surrounding Martin Bashir’s BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana.

In his first detailed response to Lord Dyson’s report – which concluded BBC journalist Bashir had used ‘deceitful conduct’ to obtain his 1995 interview with Diana – Mr Dowden said the Government would not ‘stand idly by’.

Mr Dowden said the Bashir scandal had exposed ‘failures that strike at the heart of our national broadcaster’s values and culture’.

Writing in The Times Mr Dowden called on the BBC to ensure it serves ‘all parts of the nation’, warning that without far-reaching change it may struggle to survive against international streamers such as Netflix and Amazon. 

In his report, Lord Dyson, a former master of the rolls, said Bashir used ‘deceitful conduct’ to obtain the 1995 interview which was then covered up by a ‘woefully ineffective’ internal investigation.

Mr Dowden said the BBC’s leadership was too narrowly drawn – succumbing to ‘groupthink’ – and that ‘cultural change’ was needed in the organisation.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden who said the report from Lord Dyson on BBC’s Martin Bashir had exposed ‘failures that strike at the heart of our national broadcaster’s values and culture’

‘The BBC can occasionally succumb to a ‘we know best’ attitude that is detached both from the criticism and the values of all parts of the nation it serves,’ he said.

‘Groupthink in any organisation results in a lack of challenge and poor decision making. That’s why cultural change must be a focus for the director general and new chair.’

Groupthink is a term used to define a group of people who insist that organisation they belong is so self-evidently correct that a ‘consensus’ of all right-minded people must agree with it. Any contradictory evidence and the views of anyone who does not agree with them can be disregarded entirely. 

Mr Dowden added that the BBC needed ‘to improve its culture to ensure this [scandal] never happens again and that means a new emphasis on accuracy, impartiality and diversity of opinion’.

His warning came after Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to rule out the prospect of criminal prosecutions after Lord Dyson’s findings.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has accused the BBC of adopting a ‘we know best’ attitude in the scandal surrounding its Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales (pictured)

Former BBC director general Lord Hall (pictured) quit at the weekend as chairman of the National Gallery

She told Sky News: ‘If there is subsequent action that needs to be taken, then clearly… that will follow.’

With the BBC facing a mid-term review of its charter next year, Mr Dowden said the Government would not be rushed into ‘knee jerk reforms’, but it would not ‘stand idly by’.

Further ahead, he indicated there were ‘fundamental questions’ about the future of the licence fee beyond 2027 as it competes with US streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix.

He suggested the only way the BBC could justify its funding model was by providing distinctively British programmes.

He said it needed to ‘step up to project British values and distinct quality programming with renewed vigour and ambition as our national champion’.

In the fallout from the Dyson report, former BBC director general Lord Hall – who, as head of news and current affairs, carried out the 1996 internal investigation into the way the Diana interview was obtained – quit at the weekend as chairman of the National Gallery.

MPs are expected to press for answers as to how Bashir was rehired by the BBC in 2016 as religious affairs correspondent – later promoted to religion editor – even though it was known he lied to the internal inquiry.

Some of those involved in Lord Dyson’s report, which was published Thursday, (left to right) Lord Dyson, the Princess of Wales, Martin Bashir and Earl Spencer

MPs are expected to press for answers as to how Bashir was rehired by the BBC in 2016 as religious affairs correspondent – later promoted to religion editor

There have been calls for compensation for BBC ‘whistleblowers’ whose careers suffered after they tried to raise concerns about the way Bashir operated.

He said he was ‘deeply sorry’ to the dukes of Cambridge and Sussex but disputed William’s charge that he fuelled Diana’s isolation and paranoia.

He told the Sunday Times: ‘I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don’t believe we did. Everything we did in terms of the interview was as she wanted.’

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