Diana and the press: The history and scandal

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4 June 2021

By Sunny H

The story of Diana, Princess of Wales exemplifies the tragedy that the media has evoked, and continues to evoke upon the lives of many. The history of Diana and her experience with the media is one of the most well known instances of mass media bullying that the world has ever seen.

Diana’s own brother, Earl Charles Spencer, accused journalists of having her “blood on their hands”. The Princess died when her car crashed into a wall, while it was pursued by so-called ‘paparazzi photographers’ hoping to snatch pictures of famous people, on motorbikes. The Princess had an ambivalent relationship with the media.

What was Diana’s relationship with the media?


The relationship appeared to be an on-and-off situation, though the main consensus it that the media was the demise of the princess of Wales. At times she complained about the media’s intrusion, accusing photographers and journalists of making normal life impossible for her. Several times she appeared to be driven to tears as she was pursued by paparazzi.

At other points, however, she seemed to crave the attention of the press. In the run-up to her divorce from Prince Charles and in the years afterwards, Diana sometimes fed information to journalists. During private moments she often appeared to pose for the photographers, even in the days leading up to her death, she was seen to approach journalists for conversation.

What’s new on the story?

The treatment of Diana by British journalists has made the front pages once again, 23 years after the tragic car accident.

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It has recently surfaced from biographer Andrew Morton that there was a “mile-long queue outside Kensington Palace” to interview the Princess and there was “no question at all that Diana was going to speak her mind”. The interview in question was one of the most famous examples of the power of the press, where the most intricate private information was shared with the world.

Morton said Martin Bashir, who conducted the infamous BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995, would never have secured the interview without having “scared her half to death”.

It was found in a recent report that the interview came as a result of blackmail, which Prince William and Prince Harry believe to have influenced the way in which the interview was conducted. In response to the findings, speaking to the Sunday Times, Bashir said he “never wanted to harm” Princess Diana with the interview, adding: “I don’t believe we did.”

He said he is “deeply sorry” to Princes William and Harry.

What is the response from the BBC?


The BBC is a hugely respected institution in the UK, which makes this controversy all the more interesting, since the channel is often criticised for romanticising royals due to the influence of representing the Crown itself.

The BBC said it will review its editorial practices in the wake of Lord Dyson’s report on and inquiry into the 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

The broadcaster’s board will launch a review into the effectiveness of its “editorial policies and governance” following the failings set out in the 127-page report, which found the corporation covered up “deceitful behaviour” used by journalist Martin Bashir to secure the interview.

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