The BBC has been accused of letting its senior executives off the hook by not letting a judge examine their reasons for rehiring Martin Bashir.
The corporation has been criticised for not carrying out sufficient due diligence over its appointment of Mr Bashir as religious affairs correspondent in September 2016.
It would have been widely known at the time that Mr Bashir had been accused of employing questionable methods in obtaining his landmark 1995 interview with Princess Diana, including forging documents to allegedly put pressure on her and family members.
But it is understood the judge led independent inquiry launched last week into the Panorama interview scandal will not quiz BBC executives as to why they thought rehiring Mr Bashir was justified, following his previous behaviour.
That means the BBC’s current head of news gathering, Jonathan Munro – who once described the organisation as "pale , male and stale" – will not face questions over the decision by his department to appoint Mr Bashir as religious affairs correspondent. James Harding, who was the BBC’s head of news at the time, has since left the BBC.
A much respected veteran BBC reporter told The Telegraph: “Of course Lord Dyson should look at the decision to re-appoint Bashir. It was widely known at the time within the BBC and even the wider media world what his methods were.
“I’m surprised the inquiry’s terms of reference are so narrow because it’s not a seperate point, it’s all connected and it all goes to the BBC’s values. It’s a deliberate decision by the BBC not to include it and at some point they will be forced to explain why that is.”
Earl Spencer also criticised the narrow scope of the investigation, stating on Twitter: “As I’ve told the BBC this evening, I’m not at all satisfied with the parameters they’ve set around their enquiry into the BBC Panorama interview with Diana of 25 years ago tonight. Lord Dyson must be free to examine every aspect of this matter, from 1995 to today, as he sees fit.”
Mr Bashir’s appointment in 2016 was made despite an earlier internal BBC investigation into the presenter’s working methods hearing claims that he had forged bank statements in an attempt to put pressure on Princess Diana to grant him her landmark interview in 1995.
Under his terms of reference, laid out by the BBC, Lord Dyson will examine the methods used by the corporation, and Mr Bashir in particular, to obtain his interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, in November 1995.
It will look at Mr Bashir’s use of mocked up bank statements purporting to show media payments to a former employee of Earl Spencer with the aim of bringing pressure to bear on Princess Diana to speak out.
The Earl has made it clear that he would never have introduced Mr Bashir to his sister had he not been shown forged bank statements, including others purporting to show that several royal courtiers were in the pay of the security services. He branded an initial investigation into the matter a “whitewash”.
An interview with Earl Spencer on ITV’s Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh is being broadcast on Sunday.
Jonathan Munro, BBC's head of newsgathering
At the time of Mr Bashir re-hiring by the BBC Mr Munro lavished him with praise, stating: "Martin’s track record in enterprising journalism is well known and respected in the industry and amongst our audiences.
"As a student of theology, Martin will bring immense knowledge of the brief to his new role, and an enthusiasm to cover the broadest range of faith-based stories."
Mr Munro was appointed BBC’s head of newsgathering in January 2014, after 26 years with ITN. He hit the headlines in 2019 when he criticized former BBC executives who behaved like “armchair generals” bemoaning the corporation’s attempts to recruit a more diverse workforce.
He said they appeared to be nostalgic for a time when the BBC was employed very few women and hardly any ethnic minorities, describing the era as “male, pale and stale”
Prince William, who was just 13 when he watched his mother’s interview in his house master’s study at Eton, has publicly welcomed the appointment of Lord Dyson, a former Master of the Rolls, to lead the investigation into whether his late mother was coerced into speaking to Mr Bashir.
Last week the Telegraph revealed that former England manager Terry Venables is hoping to be vindicated by Lord Dyson’s investigation into the working methods of Mr Bashir.
Mr Venables is understood to be furious at the BBC’s handling of the scandal, telling friends that he believed the corporation allowed Mr Bashir to "get away" for years with “falsely implicating” him in “controversial and underhanded” financial dealings.
Launching the inquiry Lord Dyson said: “This is an important investigation which I will start straight away. I will ensure it is both thorough and fair.”
Tim Davie, BBC Director-General, said: “The BBC is determined to get to the truth about these events and that is why we have commissioned an independent investigation. Lord Dyson is an eminent and highly respected figure who will lead a thorough process.”
The BBC hit back on Saturday and defended the inquiry, stating: “It is a fully independent investigation with a suitably wide and deep remit. The notion that it doesn’t cover the BBC’s investigation at the time is incorrect as it is explicitly part of the remit. Clearly if anyone submits new evidence – or the investigation needs to go to particular places – then Lord Dyson will be able to consider that appropriately.”
Mr Bashir has let it be known he is too ill to currently offer comment having suffered badly from Covid-19 in the spring and subsequently undergone a quadruple bypass in September.