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  • Writer's pictureLiza Stirlinglass

Secrets and Lies.

The public verbal crucifixion of Martin Bashir this past week, reminded me why I made the career change out of television in the mid 1990's.

I had been working as a researcher/documentary film maker in factual and religious programming for Television South since late 1989. I finally had my dream job, a great boss, creative co workers and the opportunity to tell stories about real people which, I like to think, we did with integrity.

However, after the ITV airing of Death on the Rock, the wrath of Mrs. T fell on the network. Franchises were lost and won and anyone trying to speak "the other truth" the one she didn't like, was out. That destructive legacy is still felt today.

In 1993, Television South lost their franchise to Meridian and I was suddenly out of a regular post - swimming, as I described it then in the shark pool. The safety of the department I had worked in, had not prepared me for freelancing and the loss of ethical process. It was a dog eat dog world and, in 1995 I decided to take my career in a different direction.

The BBC too had come under fire, the reporting of The Falklands War and independent investigative journalism brought the corporation into direct conflict with the PM.

In 1995, when Mr. Bashir and several senior officials at the BBC secured the now infamous Panorama interview with Princess Diana, the reality is lack of integrity, scoops, headlines and trampling over others to further your career had become the norm. That was the world that had been created in the corporations fight for survival.

My personal experience of the loss of integrity within the BBC happened in 1990. Imagine my surprise when a programme I had proposed to a religious affairs radio producer at the BBC in 1989, whilst working for the department came on air in 1990. That show was The Moral Maze. The producer took full credit for the concept. The memory and the irony still make my hackles rise whenever I hear the show broadcast.

The so called secrets that Princess Diana revealed to Mr. Bashir, were for the most part already known and her egregious treatment by "The Firm" made her vulnerable. I agree how the interview was secured was questionable and I certainly feel sorry for the poor graphic designer who tried to alert senior producers to what was going on. But Martin Bashir is not the root cause of all that is unwell with the BBC and, in my opinion, was certainly not the cause of her untimely death.

I am not a fan of Mr. Bashir, but I am finding the current mud slinging by The Royal Family, Princess Diana's brother and Politicians, all with their own double standards quite laughable and, as with my Moral Maze experience, sadly ironic.

No doubt this is already, to some extent, yesterdays news. But the fallout for Mr. Bashir and the graphic designer are real and the toll on them both is significant. Perhaps now is the time to stop hunting for secrets and airing other peoples so called dirty laundry out to dry.

I'd like to see a return to proper investigative reporting and an equal playing field, one where the Royal Family, The Politicians of the Day and the General Public are treated fairly and scrutinized for all the right reasons, not just the ones that make the headlines.

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