Tim Suter, who, while a senior BBC executive, was part of the 1996 internal investigation into how discredited reporter Martin Bashir secured an interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, has stepped down from the board of broadcasting regulator Ofcom. Separately Lord (Tony) Hall has stepped down from his role as Chairman of the National Gallery.
The 2021 independent investigation into the circumstances around the 1995 Panorama interview by Lord Dyson found that Suter (Managing Editor of Weekly Programmes in BBC News and Current Affairs) and colleague Tim Gardam (Head of Weekly Programmes in BBC News and Current Affairs) too readily accepted that Bashir was telling the truth about fake documents used in securing the interview.
“By mutual agreement, Tim Suter, Ofcom board member and chair of Ofcom’s content board, is stepping down with immediate effect,” said Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes.
In 1999 he joined the then Department for Culture, Media and Sport as a specialist advisor to the Secretary of State, before being appointed Head of Broadcasting Policy, overseeing the 2003 Communications Act and the creation of the newly-converged regulatory body, Ofcom.
Hall was Head of News and Current Affairs at the time of the interview and instigated the 1996 investigation, which was described as “woefully ineffective” by Dyson.
“I have always had a strong sense of public service and it is clear my continuing in the role would be a distraction to an institution I care deeply about,” Hall said. “As I said two days ago, I am very sorry for the events of 25 years ago and I believe leadership means taking responsibility.”
The developments came as Julian Knight, Chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, issued further comment on the matter, suggesting that in the wake of the Dyson report, there were serious questions still left to answer. “Namely, why was Martin Bashir rehired, with the BBC knowing what they knew? I am writing to the BBC’s Director-General Tim Davie for urgent answers,” he asserted.
“I want to know how the BBC can reassure the Committee that there could be no repeat of the serious failings that have been highlighted by the Dyson report. Now more than ever the BBC must show transparency and honesty in its response. We, the Committee, will be discussing these issues when we meet in a private session,” he confirmed.