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BBC on brink: ‘Arrogant’ broadcasters one mistake from ‘bringing house down’ says ex-chief

Princess Diana was 'betrayed' by Bashir says Burrell

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The BBC is under intense scrutiny in the wake of the highly critical report, published last week, which concluded the duplicity demonstrated by Mr Bashir, which included the forgery of documentation, was a “serious breach” of guidelines. Prince William and Prince Harry both released furious statements after the publication of the report, with the former saying the BBC had let his mother down with its “woeful incompetence”.

Now Lord Grade, currently a Conservative peer in the House of Lords, has waded into the row in a highly significant intervention, given his former roles as director general of BBC1 (from 1985-88) and chairman (from 2004-06).

In an excoriating takedown in the Telegraph, Lord Grade said the BBC’s reaction since the report’s publication, offering a fulsome apology and pledging that lessons had been learned, had been “entirely correct”.

However, this in itself was not enough to hide what he called “a systemic failure of accountability, governance and culture”.

He explained: “It is the BBC’s journalism that too often lets the corporation down.

“The Iraq war broadcast about the dodgy dossier that ended with the death of Dr David Kelly; the failure to transmit its own exposure of Jimmy Savile; the unforgivable and mistaken traducing of Lord McAlpine; the coverage of the arrest of (the innocent) Sir Cliff Richard – the list goes on and on.

“To this charge sheet must be added widespread accusations of bias about election coverage from all parties, Brexit bias, unbalanced coverage of the Middle East, Scottish politics and a host of other topics.”

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There is a long-standing, deep rooted and destructive culture within BBC journalism that must be reversed

Lord Grade

Such issues tended to “hang in the air, unexamined”, claimed Lord Grade.

He added: “There is a long-standing, deep rooted and destructive culture within BBC journalism that must be reversed.

“It starts with their default position, whenever challenged, that they are not and cannot ever be wrong.”

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Lord Grade also accused the BBC of “arrogance” in the cavalier way in which it behaves.

He wrote: “Politicians, industry leaders and public servants are expected to turn up when they get the BBC’s summons to be called to account on their airwaves.

“If they are refused, they make no bones about their sense that the refusal is an affront.

“During the last general election, Andrew Neil complained to camera about Boris Johnson’s refusal to appear on his show.

“The fact that his editor allowed this indulgence on air is reflective of the BBC’s arrogance.”

The Dyson report had highlighted “a breath-taking hypocrisy”, especially given it had taken 26 years for the truth to emerge.

Lord Grade warned: “The time for hand-wringing is well past.

“The time for a reformed culture led by governance reform is now, before another journalistic ‘lapse” brings the whole house down..

“Journalism from the BBC is too important to our democratic bloodstream to risk another serious error.”

Among other things, the Dyson report Dyson found that Mr Bashir had arranged for a graphic designer who worked for the BBC to create fake bank transactions purportedly showing payments by News International to Alan Waller, a former security guard for Earl Spencer, to persuade Diana’s brother to introduce him to the Princess of Wales.

Tony Hall, the corporation’s former director-general, was also criticised for presiding over a flawed and “woefully ineffective” internal probe into the controversy.

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