The whistleblower who exposed Martin Bashir’s wrongdoing at the BBC has said the scandal should not be used to undermine the national broadcaster, as he accepted an apology from its director general.
Matt Wiessler, a graphic designer, was blacklisted by the BBC after revealing how he had been asked by Bashir to fake bank statements in 1995 as part of an attempt to secure an interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
Twenty-six years later Wiessler was vindicated by a damning report on Bashir’s activities, which included heavy criticism of how BBC management closed ranks to protect a star reporter and instead ostracised the whistleblower.
On Thursday Wiessler met the BBC director general, Tim Davie, at the corporation’s central London headquarters and accepted what he called an “utterly sincere” apology.
Wiessler said he was aware that some of the BBC’s critics may look to use the scandal to harm the broadcaster. “The last thing I want is to fuel that fire,” he said. “I am a through-and-through BBC person. I believe that, providing the national broadcaster can sort their act out and put in place all the measures to prevent it from happening again, then I am massively supportive.”
He said he believed Davie’s apology was sincere. “We talked about all sorts of things and we shared opinions on a lot of things about the future of the BBC and it was all very good. He was again and again saying that ‘this is not just from me, it’s from all current BBC staff who are annoyed and upset that this is not settled yet’. It’s an unreserved apology.”
Wiessler, who helped design the modern election night swingometer for the BBC, was a rising star who had left the corporation to set up his own graphic design agency when the scandal first broke in the mid-1990s. Soon afterwards he found his work had dried up, and he currently runs a cycling business in Devon.
His lawyers are continuing to negotiate potential compensation with the BBC. “I’ve told my lawyers ages ago, I want no part in negotiations. It has to go through the legal framework because it’s licence payers’ money and it has to be fair,” Wiessler said. “I’m not here jumping on the Beeb like a shark, I’m very supportive.”
BBC bosses are bracing themselves for the imminent release of a report on an internal investigation into the decision to rehire Bashir as a religion correspondent in 2016. It will focus on who made the decision to rehire the reporter and whether enough checks on Bashir’s background were carried out.
Wiessler said this part of the story did not affect him but “as a member of public I was enormously surprised with all that had been said and reported about him that the BBC chose to re-employ him”.
He said he had been pleasantly surprised by the support for his case from the wider British media, even if the substantial interest had resulted in reporters turning up at his house. “They’ve opened my kitchen door at 10 o’clock at night, but after I’ve made them a cup of tea and I’ve told them what I know, off they go.”