BBC chairman on The Princes and The Press: ‘I hope in this case we have got it right’

The chairman of the BBC said he “hopes we have got it right” over its controversial royal documentary, coming so soon after the Martin Bashir scandal.

Richard Sharp said he was standing by Amol Rajan’s BBC Two programme, The Princes and The Press.

The Royal Family needs to “respect” the content of the documentary, he said.

Speaking to the Voice of the Listener and Viewer autumn conference, Mr Sharp said: “Obviously, we are particularly sensitive to this as an organisation, particularly in light of events around Bashir.

“I hope in this case we have got it right and I hope the Royal Family in its entirety respects the output that this programme represents.”

Mr Sharp said he had been assured that the Palace was approached before broadcast and offered a right of reply to the programme.

But he added: “If that wasn’t the case, I will learn that in the fullness of time.”

Mr Sharp said he had watched the first episode and “I felt that it engendered a lot of sympathy for individuals in the Royal Family”.

He was asked to comment on news that Kensington Palace has given broadcast rights for a carol concert starring the Duchess of Cambridge to ITV, in a last-minute decision to pull it from the BBC.

He replied: “The BBC is a national institution and we approach our relationships with other national institutions with great care and thought.

“We have tremendous respect for all aspects of the Royal Family in all that they undertake. From time to time, this organisation produces programmes that may or may not meet with the full agreement of different parts of the Establishment and that is also true of the Government, the judiciary, and other important parts of our society.

“Our job is to get that right, to be independent, to be respectful and fair. To my mind, as a viewer watching that programme, I felt that it demonstrated enormous sympathy for people in the crosshairs of public scrutiny and particularly the appalling behaviour in the past of our media as a whole.”

The BBC faced serious criticism from the Duke of Cambridge over its behaviour during the Martin Bashir scandal in which his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was persuaded to take part in the Panorama interview.

The second of the two-part Princes and the Press programme and an accompanying podcast of extra material will air on Monday, despite protests from Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace that the BBC failed to fulfil its journalistic obligations.

The palace, who have condemned “overblown and unfounded” claims aired in the show, argues staff have not been given enough information about the contents of the programme to respond.

The BBC insists it adhered to all broadcasting guidelines, and will not re-edit the film to take in royal complaints.

The carol concert, involving the Cambridge family, will be recorded at Westminster Abbey in early December, with broadcast rights offered to ITV late last week.

An ITV source said of the commission: “It was unusual for it to come to us this late.”

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