A graphic designer has received a substantial financial settlement from the BBC after he was made the “fall guy” for Martin Bashir’s decision to use fake bank statements to help secure an interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
Matt Wiessler was asked by Bashir to mock up the documents in 1995. These were then shown to Diana’s brother Earl Spencer as part of a successful bid by Bashir to land the career-defining interview with the princess that made his name around the world.
When the BBC conducted an internal investigation in the immediate aftermath of the broadcast, executives in effect cleared Bashir but secretly decided that Wiessler would not work for the BBC again.
Twenty-five years later Wiessler has finally received a full apology and compensation for the broadcaster’s decision to ban him from the corporation. Sources at the BBC suggested the payout was a six-figure sum, although the terms were not made public and neither side would comment on the settlement.
Last year Wiessler told the Guardian he had been shocked to finally learn about his blacklisting, after being approached by a Channel 4 documentary team re-examining how Bashir had secured the interview with Diana: “The only outcome of that [BBC] board meeting was that Martin was naughty but an honest man – and Matt cannot work for the BBC again.”
Wiessler, who helped invent the modern election night swingometer, saw his freelance television career suffer without BBC work and now runs a bicycle design business in Devon.
Bashir, who was later rehired as the BBC’s religion editor after stints at ITV and in the US, quit the corporation earlier this year with his journalistic reputation in shreds.
The BBC said: “We are pleased that the BBC and Mr Wiessler have reached an agreement. We would like to repeat our full and unconditional apology to Mr Wiessler for the way he was treated by the corporation in the past.
“We also apologise to Mr Wiessler’s family. Mr Wiessler acted with complete integrity, including in raising his concerns at the time and we are sorry that these were not listened to. We wish Mr Wiessler all the best for the future.”
Wiessler’s lawyer said: “Mr Wiessler is relieved that the BBC has now matched the director-general’s fulsome apologies with appropriate financial compensation for the wrongs done to him and the profound impact they had on his and his family’s life.
“It is important to my client that the BBC has acknowledged that he acted properly and responsibly throughout.”