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Tim Suter, formerly a top executive at the BBC, has stepped down from the board of British broadcast regulator Ofcom following a damning report into the BBC’s conduct in securing a famous television interview with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1995.
Ofcom’s chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes said Friday Suter was stepping down “by mutual agreement…with immediate effect.”
The report, whose findings were released Thursday, concluded BBC journalist Martin Bashir used “deceitful methods” to win the trust of Diana’s family and help convince her to do the interview. Bashir got a graphic designer at the BBC to forge bank statement to make it seem as if the media were paying associates of Diana’s family for information.
On Saturday, former BBC director general Tony Hall resigned as chairman of the National Gallery. He served as the BBC’s director of news when Bashir got the interview. “I am very sorry for the events of 25 years ago and I believe leadership means taking responsibility,” Hall said in a statement. He added that remaining in his role would be “a distraction.”
Former supreme court judge Lord Dyson, who carried out the report, judged that the BBC “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark.”
The report criticized Suter, in his previous job as managing editor of weekly programs at BBC News and current affairs, for his role in the BBC’s internal investigation into the incident. That investigation, led by former BBC director-general Tony Hall, cleared Bashir of wrongdoing. Lord Dyson called it “woefully ineffective.”
In the wake of Dyson’s report, pressure is growing on the BBC to reform its regulations and editorial controls. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told ITV News Friday that the BBC should take “every possible step to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”
Earlier, Prince William, Diana’s son and the second-in-line for the British monarchy said the BBC’s “failures and false claims” contributed to his mother’s “fear, paranoia and isolation” before her death.
For most of its 100-year-history, the British Broadcasting Corporation has been regulated in-house by a board of governors. In 2007, in response to another BBC news scandal, the government established an independent BBC Trust to oversee the public broadcaster. In 2017, governance authority over the BBC was transferred to Ofcom, the British equivalent to America’s Federal Communications Commission.
Bashir left the BBC in 1999, four years after his Diana interview. He worked at ITV, MSNBC, and ABC before returning to the BBC in 2016 as religious affairs correspondent. He resigned earlier this month, ahead of the publication of the Lord Dyson report, citing health reasons due to COVID-19 complications.
In a statement Friday, Scotland Yard — the London Metropolitan Police — said it had determined in March of this year it was not appropriate to begin a criminal investigation into allegations of unlawful activity in connection with the Diana interview. But “following the publication of Lord Dyson’s report we will assess its contents to ensure there is no significant new evidence.”
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