Former BBC director Tony Hall has resigned as chairman of London’s National Gallery following the conclusion of an inquiry into a controversial 1995 interview with Princess Diana that aired under his watch.
The inquiry found that reporter Martin Bashir landed the infamous interview after he gained Diana’s confidence with faked documents suggesting she was under surveillance, and that the BBC subsequently covered up his wrongdoing.
“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 in a statement announcing his resignation, adding that he was “very sorry” for the events.
The BBC commissioned the inquiry last year after Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, spoke out about the tactics used to gain unprecedented access to the Princess of Wales.
The inquiry, carried out by former senior judge Lord Dyson, confirmed that Bashir was “deceitful” in his dealings with the princess. It also found that Tony Hall, who was then director of BBC news, led a “woefully ineffective” internal probe into the journalist’s actions in 1996.
In the November 1995 interview, Diana spoke candidly about the inner workings of the Royal Family, her eating disorder, and her unhappy relationship with Prince Charles. After it aired, Queen Elizabeth II wrote to Diana asking them to get a divorce. Diana died two years later in a car crash in Paris.
In a video statement responding to the inquiry, Prince William blamed the BBC for fueling his mother’s paranoia and further damaging her relationship with Prince Charles.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the incident exposed the BBC’s “failures” to live up to its own standards and values. Dowden warned that the corporation needed to “improve its culture” and stressed the need for “accuracy, impartiality, and diversity of opinion.”
London’s Metropolitan Police will also investigate the allegations in the report.
Hall had been a National Gallery trustee since November 2019 and became board chair in July 2020. For the moment, he will be replaced by deputy chair John Kingman. In a statement, Kingman said the museum was “extremely sorry” to lose Hall, but that it understood and respected his decision.
Bashir, who was rehired by the BBC in 2016 when Tony Hall was director general, left the corporation earlier this month.