William's Diana Panorama Ban Could Lead to 'Slow Rewriting' of Her Story

Prince William's insistence that Princess Diana's bombshell 1995 BBC Panorama interview should "never be aired again" could lead to the "slow rewriting" of her life story, according to a royal biographer.

Omid Scobie, co-author of the hit Harry and Meghan biography Finding Freedom, has expressed his concern that the suppression of Diana's own words in the 1995 interview—which she later said she had "no regrets" in doing—has seen the princess once again being "silenced" by the royal "Firm".

Princess Diana, Panorama and Prince William
Princess Diana's interview with the BBC's Panorama programme was aired in November 1995. Prince William (inset) has spoken of his belief that the discussion should "never" be aired again following an investigation which found his mother had been deceived in attempts to secure the interview. Photographed April 21, 2022. Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images/Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Scobie's commentary in a recent column for Yahoo! News follows the BBC's official apology about its conduct in handling allegations of wrongdoing in the methods used to obtain the interview with Diana.

These were exposed in a review undertaken by Lord Dyson in 2021 which found BBC staff member Martin Bashir had been "deceitful" in his conduct regarding the interview.

In a statement issued on July 21, after it was announced that the former nanny of Prince William and Prince Harry, Alexandra Petifer, had been awarded damages by the BBC over false accusations told to Diana that "likely" influenced her to take part in the Panorama interview, BBC Director-General Tim Davie said:

"The BBC has agreed to pay substantial damages to Mrs Pettifer and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise publicly to her, to The Prince of Wales, and to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, for the way in which Princess Diana was deceived and the subsequent impact on all their lives.

"It is a matter of great regret that the BBC did not get to the facts in the immediate aftermath of the programme when there were warning signs that the interview might have been obtained improperly. Instead, as the Duke of Cambridge himself put it, the BBC failed to ask the tough questions. Had we done our job properly Princess Diana would have known the truth during her lifetime. We let her, the royal family and our audiences down.

"Now we know about the shocking way that the interview was obtained I have decided that the BBC will never show the programme again; nor will we license it in whole or part to other broadcasters."

Davie did add the caveat that the interview remained "part of the historical record" and as such the broadcaster may use "short extracts" for journalistic purposes in their full context.

In July criticism over the inclusion of clips from the interview was directed at the HBO documentary The Princess, released to mark the 25th anniversary of Diana's death at the age of 36 in a high-speed Paris car crash in 1997.

Princess Diana and Martin Bashir
Princess Diana was persuaded to take part in an interview with BBC Panorama by broadcast journalist Martin Bashir. A later investigation found Bashir had been "deceitful" in his dealings with the princess. Diana (L) photographed June 2, 1997. And Bashir (R) March 1, 2005. Antony Jones/UK Press via Getty Images/Win McNamee/Getty Images

In his column, Scobie writes that Diana's willingness to take part in the interview was just another example of her many attempts to have her authentic voice heard in the public domain.

"Princess Diana rarely got the chance to tell her own story," he said, offering her collaboration with journalist Andrew Morton on the 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story as an early attempt at revealing her truth.

"Three years later...Diana chose to speak out herself, finally opening up to BBC's Panorama. It was raw, real and the most watched interview of all time in UK history," he continued.

"Diana's decision to do a televised sit-down was rooted in a deep desire to be heard and finally dispel many of the false narratives told in the press."

Though he concedes that the interview was obtained using a combination of "unethical tactics" and "gaslighting" by Panorama lead interviewer Martin Bashir, Scobie cites Diana's own insistence that she had "no regrets" in a letter written to Bashir a month after the programme's broadcast, as an argument that her words should be listened to as part of her historical narrative.

"Without being able to hear Diana's own words again, I fear we may be about to enter what could potentially lead to the slow rewriting of her life," he wrote, later adding:

"Unethical and immoral practices in the media should always be fought against. But just as important as ensuring the integrity of journalism is freedom of speech for those suppressed or silenced by higher powers.

"Diana fought for much of her royal life to share her side of the story and be better understood. She put everything on the line, and her braveness has inspired millions around the world. Sadly now, her voice has been silenced once again."

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