Lord Tony Hall said his continued presence at the gallery would be a ‘distraction’ (Picture: PA)Former BBC boss Lord Tony Hall has quit his Government-backed job as chairman of the National Gallery amid the outcry over Panorama’s Princess Diana interview.
A bombshell report found journalist Martin Bashir used deception to get the 1995 scoop and that this was covered up by an internal investigation.
Lord Hall, who was director of BBC news and current affairs at the time, said his continued presence at the gallery would be a ‘distraction to an institution I care deeply about’.
He said: ‘I have today resigned as chair of the National Gallery.
‘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.
‘As I said two days ago, I am very sorry for the events of 25 years ago and I believe leadership means taking responsibility.’
Lord Hall led the internal BBC investigation which exonerated Bashir, even though he had previously admitted lying about the fake bank statements he used in obtaining the interview.
The scoop saw Princess Diana famously declare ‘there were three of us in this marriage’.
The journalist used the false documents to try to persuade Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, that people close to her were in the pay of the press.
Mr Spencer has reportedly written to the Metropolitan Police chief to ask the force to look again at the circumstances surrounding the interview. Scotland Yard had already said it would assess the contents of the investigation to ensure there is no ‘significant new evidence’ to support a criminal investigation.
A bombshell report found journalist Martin Bashir used deception to get the 1995 scoop (Picture: BBC)Former judge Lord Dyson’s damning report found the BBC covered up Bashir’s ‘deceitful behaviour’ in obtaining the interview and labelled Lord Hall’s 1996 internal investigation ‘woefully ineffective’.
The peer’s resignation comes after another former BBC executive involved in the 1996 internal investigation, Tim Suter, announced on Friday that he was stepping down from his board role with media watchdog Ofcom.
Prince William and Prince Harry have both issued scathing statements following Lord Dyson’s report.
William said the interview had fuelled his mother’s ‘fear, paranoia and isolation’ in the final years of her life and damaged her relationship with Prince Charles.
Harry said: ‘The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life.’
Lord Hall was director of BBC news and current affairs at the time of the interview (Picture: AFP)Boris Johnson also weighed in on the scandal, saying he was ‘very concerned’ by the inquiry’s findings.
Bashir was controversially rehired by the BBC as religious affairs correspondent in 2016, and later promoted to religion editor.
The chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Julian Knight has called on current director-general Tim Davie to provide a full explanation as to how Bashir came to be re-employed.
Mr Knight said that some people may suspect that the journalist was given the job as a way of keeping quiet about what exactly he knew.
He said the BBC should consider paying compensation to ‘whistleblowers’ whose careers were damaged after raising concerns about the way Bashir had operated.
More: Diana Princess Of Wales
He pointed to the case of graphic designer Matt Wiessler, who was sidelined after informing BBC bosses that Bashir had asked him to mock up a series of fake bank statements.
Mr Knight said Mr Davie should now meet Mr Wiessler to hear directly what he had to say.
‘He is clearly very emotional, he feels this has probably impaired his life to a certain degree,’ the MP told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
‘I think the BBC needs to have a real open mind in terms of the possibility of compensation but also how it interacts with people like Mr Wiessler who clearly have faced quite profound consequences due to this fiasco.’
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