The allegations resurfaced last year following a lengthy campaign by Mr. Spencer and the broadcast of a documentary on ITV, in which Mr. Wiessler claimed he had been made a scapegoat by the broadcaster.
The BBC, which commissioned the independent inquiry in November, issued a contrite response, admitting that “the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect.”
“The BBC should have made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew,” said Tim Davie, the current director-general. “While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology.”
The report drew bitter reactions from Diana’s two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, who said the interview poisoned what remained of her relationship with their father and even laid the groundwork for her death in a car crash in Paris two years later, following a high-speed pursuit by photographers.
William accused BBC employees of making “lurid and false claims about the royal family, which played on her fears and fueled paranoia.” Harry, referring to a “culture of exploitation and unethical practices” by the news media, said, “our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed.”
The BBC won plaudits in the last year for its coverage of the pandemic, but it remains a frequent target of the Johnson government. It has found itself in the middle of culture-war disputes over its purported hostility to Brexit, not showing proper respect to the Union Jack and refusing to play the lyrics to patriotic songs like “Rule Britannia.”
“It comes at a very bad moment for the BBC,” said Meera Selva, director of the Reuters Journalism Fellowship Program at Oxford University. “There is very little doubt this will be weaponized against the institution at a time it really needs to make a public case for its journalistic excellence.”