Tim Davie, the director-general of the BBC, has said there will be a “legal discussion” around compensation for the whistleblower who first raised concerns about Martin Bashir’s faked bank statements.
Graphic designer Matt Weissler has said he was made the “fall guy” for Bashir’s actions. He was asked by the Panorama journalist to mock up the documents but did not realise what they were for until he saw the headline-making interview with Princess Diana.
The issue of compensation for Weissler and others who raised concerns about Bashir’s actions was one of Press Gazette’s eight unanswered questions about the scandal on Monday. Weissler never worked for the BBC again, while others were forced out of the Panorama team.
Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday Davie said he would like to meet with Weissler.
Weissler has already told the BBC he wants to meet with Davie because he believes the involvement of important figures is “being covered up” and feels apologies and acknowledgement of whistleblowers was coming only “under duress”.
Davie said: “I think we need to engage with people, talk with them, and the apology’s fulsome. I feel shocked.”
Asked if he thinks the BBC owes Wiessler compensation, Davie said it needs to go through a “legal discussion”, adding: “We’ll engage in that discussion because clearly we were at fault.”
The Dyson report revealed how Lord Hall told then BBC director general Lord Birt in 1996: “We are taking steps to ensure that the graphic designer involved – Matthew Weissler – will not work for the BBC again (when a current contract expires in the next few weeks).
“In addition, between now and the summer, we will work to deal with leakers and remove persistent troublemakers from the programme.”
Davie told Today: “I think some of the most disappointing and shocking elements of this, and there are multiple failings of which we have apologised for, are things like the whistleblowing, how did that work?
“The very person who raised this – and I know many staff feel very strongly about this – the very person who raised this as an issue, suffered enormous impacts, which we’re very sorry for.
“That cannot happen again. We have improved processes but I want to look again at things.”
Another of Press Gazette’s unanswered questions was why Bashir was rehired by the BBC as religion editor in 2016 despite his previous actions.
The BBC is now undergoing what Davie dubbed a “quick” investigation.
“We’re interviewing people, getting the documents, and we should be able to publish something next week,” he said.
Davie added: “There’s no doubt with what you know now it’s a big mistake.”
The BBC said in a statement last night that Bashir was interviewed as part of an interview process for the position.
Bashir has recently resigned from the BBC. Davie said he had accepted his resignation for three reasons: his “significant” medical issues and the fact it allowed both a “clean break with no pay-off” in licence-fee payers’ interests and “no restraint in us getting to the truth”.
Asked if Bashir is still being paid, Davie said: “He’s working out a short notice period because he resigned, and that’s where we are now.”
He said this notice period started the moment he resigned and is almost up.
Davie refused to draw a direct line from Bashir’s actions to Diana’s death, calling it “speculation”.
“I haven’t got the evidence of that, Justin. It’s as simple as that. It’s not a question of rejecting it.
“It’s just simply I’m driven by the evidence in the Dyson report. And I think that’s a fair reading of what I’ve got in front of me.”
Diana’s son Prince Harry said last week a “ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life”.
“Then, and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication,” he said. “Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed.”
Picture: PA Wire/PA Images/Andrew Milligan