Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay now
Celeb obsessed? Get a daily dose of showbiz gossip direct to your inbox
Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice
A Parliamentary investigation into the alleged inappropriate behaviour between Martin Bashir and the BBC for their infamous 1995 Panorama interview got heated on Tuesday when Lord Birt was accused of ruining a graphic designer’s career.
A Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee investigation is currently investigating the BBC’s interview with the late Lady Diana – which aired in 1995.
Former Director General of the BBC, Lord John Birt, 76 – who ran the corporation at the time – was grilled by parliamentary questioners on Tuesday over what he knew about the events running up to and including the Martin Bashir interview.
In the course of preparing for the Panorama interview, graphic designer Matt Wiessler was allegedly tasked with forging documents that were used while setting up the interview with Lady Diana.
Former BBC Director General Lord Birt came under first during questioning in Parliament on Tuesday
Mr Wiessler then turned whistleblower as he expressed concerns about the way Panorama were securing their interview.
He was subsequently “fired” by the BBC and “blacklisted” when he tried leaked the story to the press.
On Tuesday the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee quizzed Lord Birt over his involvement in Mr Weissler’s sacking, alleging he must have been involved in the decision either directly or complicity.
Graphic designer Matthew Wiessler worked with Martin Bashir in the run up to his interview with Princess Diana
Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer refuses to 'plug' book amid Martin Bashir chat
Questioning turned fiery when the committee chair, Julian Knight, asked Lord Brit about Mr Weissler’s sacking, beginning a round of questioning by stating: “I’ve heard of victim blaming before, but my word!”
Lord Birt barked back: “Can you expand on that?” and Mr Knight declared: “I am going to.”
He said: “You stated before that Mr Weissler was respected as a ‘whistleblower’. That’s what your statement was before.
Martin Bashir's 1995 interview with Princess Diana was a scoop for the BBC at the time
“Now, Lord Hall’s report [another former Director General of the BBC who was quizzed by the committee earlier in the day] of you stated the following: ‘The final point concerns the actions of those who leaked material to the press. We are taking steps to ensure that the graphic designer involved, Matthew Wiessler, will not work for the BBC again (when they 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 program.’
“That’s instituting a witch hunt. And secondly, when it comes to Mr Wiessler, you stated to this committee before that he was respected as a whistleblower. No he wasn’t. Under your watch, he was blackballed, and didn’t work for the BBC again.
“Do you owe Mr Wiessler an apology?”
Lord Birt and Mr Knight then barked at each other as the former requested to “explain the circumstances” but the MP demanded to know if the graphic designer was owed an apology.
Martin Bashir's past career is under scrutiny amid allegations he acted inappropriately to secure an interview with the late Lady Diana
Mr Knight argued Lord Birt was avoiding his question, and accused the former Director General of “approving” Mr Wiessler’s sacking: “either by saying that it was the right thing to do, or by sitting on your hands.”
Mr Knight argued: “I think perhaps just in this dark episode, perhaps just have the guts to say ‘sorry’ to someone who has basically had their career ruined because they chose to do the right thing.”
However, Lord Birt did not apologise under Mr Knight’s questioning, arguing he did not "have enough evidence" to understand why Mr Wiessler was fired by the BBC after trying to expose Martin Bashir's behaviour.