Flat White

The People’s Princess and the poobahs of public broadcasting

25 May 2021

5:02 PM

25 May 2021

5:02 PM

Goodbye England’s rose 

May you ever grow in our hearts 

You were the grace that placed itself where lives were torn apart…

Few who watched Diana’s funeral can now forget Elton John’s sad tribute to the woman, he, loved and sorrowed for, at her end in that shocking, still-debated death in a Paris road tunnel. We remember the faces of the young princes, a small Harry, a silent, frozen Will, walking beside his father and uncle, behind his other’s cortege.  

This was not the way it was meant to end for Diana, Princess of Wales. But the events of 25 years ago may spark momentous changes in a sector that appears to have adopted the old divine rights of kings for its own ends, public broadcasting.

Martin Bashir, the BBC journalist who started a frightened, suspicious woman on a path that would lead to her death, has been found to have been guilty of deceitful behaviour, and his employer, the BBC, of falling short of the “high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark.”  

The BBC, which protected Bashir, re-hiring him as a religion reporter,  has now – finally – apologised in the wake of the report by retired senior judge John Dyson; a mean spirited, self-serving apology that sounds as if made, by the Beeb’s current boss, through gritted teeth, “While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”  

Bashir acknowledged that the faking of false documents (reported to the BBC by the graphic artist who was given the job, only to be ignored,) admitting, It was a stupid thing to do”. Stupid, yes, but ultimately, it took a woman’s life.  

And it was more than stupidity on the part of BBC bosses, it was lack of transparency, sheer venality and lack of probity that kept the story under wraps for nearly half a century. 

The Diana story is not the BBC’s only major scandal. We have learnt in recent years how top brass protected one of its major personalities, paedophile — possibly necrophile — Jimmy Saville from investigation by its own reporters and continue to protect his memory after his death. 

The BBC is taxpayer-funded, as is Our ABC. How many ABC reporters have ‘gotten away’ with similar ‘mistakes’ perpetrating a snide smear campaign that just goes far enough to destroy their victim’s life forever?  

The matter of Christian Porter is before the courts, but even a High Court ruling unambiguously in favour of George Pell has been unable to salvage his reputation from years of ABC mauling. And while dead people can’t sue, the ABC is at a centre of a storm at the moment over its lurid allegations about former New South Wales premier Neville Wran and the Luna Park ghost train fire in the seventies; allegations strongly contested by figures such a journalist turned premier Bob Carr and former Wran adviser — and Sydney Morning Herald editor — Milton Cockburn

ABC journalists consider themselves protected species but should they be? If a public servant in say, the Department of Health, was to slander, without proof, a colleague or member of the public, retribution would be swift, possibly leading to dismissal, if human tragedy subsequently occurred.  

In London, Home Secretary Priti Patel has called for a review of the BBC’s charter, saying it has been ‘compromised’ and that next year’s review will be ‘a very, very significant moment’ for the UK’s national broadcaster.  Should the BEEB become a subscription model – many taxpayers might agree.  

The ABC’s charter should equally be scrutinised by parliament, as to whether it fulfils its obligations to Australians under its charter rules. If it is found wanting, it is up to the government to take the necessary action. Australians expect and deserve nothing less.  

Polling commissioned by the Menzies Research Centre and released earlier this week shows how increasingly irrelevant the ABC is becoming to Australians.

It would be ironic if the death of “the People’s Princess” led to the dethroning of the poobahs of public broadcasting — or, at the least, their appalling inclination to regard us as a witless peasantry.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments