Tony Hall has resigned as chairman of the National Gallery amid the ongoing controversy over the BBC Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1995.
The corporation’s former director general was severely criticised in Lord Dyson’s report for overseeing a flawed and “woefully ineffective” internal investigation into how Martin Bashir obtained the interview.
Lord Hall said his continued presence at the gallery would be a “distraction”.
The peer, who was director of BBC news and current affairs at the time that Bashir interviewed Diana, said: “I have today resigned as chair of the National Gallery.
“I have always had a strong sense of public service and it is clear my continuing in the role would be a distraction to an institution I care deeply about.
“As I said two days ago, I am very sorry for the events of 25 years ago and I believe leadership means taking responsibility.”
The report by Dyson, a former master of the rolls, found that Bashir had engaged in “deceitful behaviour” by commissioning fake bank statements to secure the interview. It also found that Hall was aware the journalist had told “serious and unexplained lies” about what he had done to persuade the princess to speak to him.
When other media began asking questions about how the programme had secured the world exclusive, Dyson said the corporation “covered up in its press logs” what it knew.
The report said: “Without justification, the BBC fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark.”
Sir John Kingman, deputy chair of the National Gallery’s board of trustees, said: “Tony Hall has been doing a superb job as chair of the National Gallery, where he is much respected and liked. The gallery is extremely sorry to lose him, but of course we entirely understand and respect his decision.”
Dr Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery, thanked Hall for his work at the institution. He said the former BBC director general had “demonstrated extraordinary commitment to the gallery and it has been a great pleasure to work closely with him as we have faced the challenges of Covid and as we prepare to mark the gallery’s bicentenary in 2024”.
Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother, is reported to have written to the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, asking the force to investigate the BBC and saying his sister had been the victim of blackmail and fraud.
On Thursday, Prince William and Prince Harry also condemned the BBC over the Panorama interview. William said the corporation’s failures contributed to the fear their mother felt in her final years; Harry said it was part of a “culture of exploitation and unethical practices that ultimately took her life”.