The BBC has agreed to pay a “significant sum” to the former Panorama journalist Mark Killick, who was sacked after raising concerns over Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, and has apologised “unreservedly”.
Killick, who was a senior producer and reporter on the programme, first alerted his former employer to the existence of forged bank statements used to convince the late Princess of Wales to give the interview. He was sacked within 24 hours.
The corporation said on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement to pay an undisclosed sum in damages and costs with Killick, admitting that he had acted “entirely properly” over the interview.
It comes after the Dyson report last year found that Bashir had engaged in “deceitful behaviour” by commissioning false bank statements to get the interview, which, it concluded, was a “serious breach” of the BBC’s editorial guidelines.
The broadcaster also apologised for “defamatory statements” made about him after the interview, in which Diana famously said of her marriage with Prince Charles: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
The BBC said in a statement: “Following publication of the Dyson report last year, the BBC and former BBC Panorama senior reporter/producer Mark Killick today announce that a settlement has been reached between them.
“The BBC apologises unreservedly for defamatory statements made of Mr Killick in 1996 in internal BBC documents during the Corporation’s investigations into events surrounding the interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.”
It added: “Mr Killick acted entirely properly in referring his concerns about Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana, Princess of Wales to senior management.
“The BBC has agreed to pay Mr Killick a significant sum in damages and costs, and we wish him all the best for the future.”
Killick, who is now a creative director at Media Zoo, a media consultancy, said the apology was a “positive step forward” but claimed the BBC’s reputation “may never recover”.
“The BBC’s attempt to try and destroy my reputation rather than investigate my concerns shows just how desperate the BBC was to hide what had happened,” he said.
“It was an extraordinary attempt to cover up wrongdoing and the climate of fear it created may well have stopped other BBC whistleblowers from speaking out for a generation.
“I still find it staggering that the BBC was so determined to conceal the truth that it launched a smear campaign against me to protect its tainted scoop.”
He added: “I am grateful to Tim Davie and his team for finally setting the record straight. But the damage to the BBC’s reputation is immense and you can understand if BBC employees no longer have the courage to speak truth to power.”
Lord Dyson’s investigation was launched after Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother, claimed that Bashir had shown him fake financial papers.
It found that the interview, watched by 23 million people in the UK and which earned Bashir a Bafta, “fell short of high standards of integrity and transparency”.
After the report’s publication, Bashir issued an apology and said it was “a stupid thing to do”. However, he said he would “always remain immensely proud of that interview”.