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BBC publishes Bashir appointment review

June 14, 2021

By Colin Mann

The BBC has published a review set up to establish the facts around the decision to appoint Martin Bashir as Religious Affairs Correspondent in September 2016 and the subsequent re-grading of the role to Religion Editor in 2018.

The review was conducted by Ken MacQuarrie, until January 2021, the BBC’s Director, Nations and Regions, and looked at the following three questions:

  1. Was the recruitment process intended to find the right person for the role as opposed to being pre-determined?
  2. What did those who appointed Martin Bashir know about: (i) his previous misconduct in relation to the 1995 Panorama; and (ii) his other public controversies?
  3. In what circumstances was Martin Bashir’s role re-graded in 2018?

MacQuarrie’s report says:

“In my view, the recruitment process for the Religious Affairs Correspondent was targeted at finding the right person for the role. Although there were some shortcomings in the process by which he was re-employed, I am satisfied that that he was ultimately appointed because his knowledge and experience were considered to be the best match to the requirements for the role at that time. I have found no evidence that Martin Bashir was re-hired to contain and/or cover up the events surrounding the 1995 Panorama programme. In my view, that theory is entirely unfounded.”

“As regards the due diligence conducted on Martin Bashir, the actions of the individuals involved in the recruitment and re-grading of Martin Bashir can only properly be judged against the state of the BBC’s corporate understanding as it was in 2016 and not as it stands now in 2021. None of the individuals involved in the recruitment of Martin Bashir had knowledge of all of the matters contained in the Dyson Report. I have no doubt that if any of the individuals involved in the appointment of Martin Bashir in 2016 had been aware of what is now publicly known as a result of the Dyson Report, Martin Bashir would have never been reappointed to the BBC,” concludes MacQuarrie.

“I would like to thank Ken MacQuarrie for his report,” commented BBC Director-General, Tim Davie. “It finds the recruitment process was targeted to find the right person for the role and it was conducted in good faith. While the report finds processes were largely followed at the time, it is clear we need to reflect on the findings to ensure consistent best practice is applied in our recruitment. Finally, it is without doubt that had the organisation been aware of what is now publicly known because of the Dyson Report Martin Bashir would have never been reappointed,” he added.

The BBC says it will reflect on the findings, confirming that, in particular, it will look at introducing more rigorous  pre-appointment checks – such as checking social media and other online materials – for the recruitment of senior and public-facing roles at the BBC in the future.

“We will also remind hiring managers of the need for consistent communication with all candidates and to ensure consistent, appropriate record keeping of recruitment processes and introduce checks going forward, to ensure this happens,” it asserts.

Julian Knight MP, Chair of the UK House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee , said the Committee was “deeply concerned” by the revelations in the report.

“That the BBC considered rehiring Martin Bashir when there were high level doubts over his integrity stretches incredulity to breaking point. By this point, as the Dyson report concluded, senior members of the BBC knew that Bashir had lied about the use of faked bank statements to gain access to Princess Diana,” he contends.

“If the BBC considered him ‘unanimously’ the best candidate, where was the due diligence that should have prevented the corporation from rehiring a former member of staff who had not told a very important truth? Where were senior level discussions?”

“What is disturbing is that it appeared the BBC wanted to interview Bashir at the outset, regardless of who else applied for the job. And, not only did they re-employ him, they promoted him.”

“We look forward to getting answers tomorrow when former Director-General Lord Hall comes before our Committee along with the former DG Lord Birt, the BBC’s current DG Tim Davie and its Chair Richard Sharp,” he added.

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