The fifth season of The Crown depicts the now-notorious Panorama interview between Martin Bashir and Princess Diana, which was broadcast on the BBC in November 1995.


As well as dramatising the methods Bashir used to obtain the interview, The Crown also focuses on the decision-making of those around him at the BBC, including John Birt, who decided to run the interview, and Duke Hussey, who opposed it.

Birt and Hussey both appear in the season's eighth episode, across which they disagree firmly multiple times about the direction of the BBC in general. But who were these two men at the top of the BBC in the 1990s?

Read on for everything you need to know about John Birt and Duke Hussey and who plays them in The Crown season 5.

Who is John Birt?

Sir John Birt
John Birt. Sandy Young/WireImage

Lord Birt is the former Director General of the BBC, who held the post between 1992 and 2000. Following his role at the BBC, he became an advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, and became a Lord in 2000.

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In The Crown season 5, Birt is seen deliberating over whether to run the Panorama interview with Diana. He is seen to be a big proponent for change at the BBC, as opposed to the more conservative Duke Hussey.

Speaking at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee last year, Lord Birt branded Bashir a "serial liar on an industrial scale" and said of the interview: “It is an absolute horror story and it should never have happened, and it is a complete embarrassment that it did happen."

Who plays John Birt in The Crown season 5?

Nicholas Gleaves
Nicholas Gleaves. David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

John Birt appears in The Crown season 5 episode 8, called Gunpowder, and is played by actor Nicholas Gleaves.

Gleaves has previously appeared in the MCU film Spider-Man: Far from Home, while he has also had roles in series including Coronation Street, Bodyguard, Death in Paradise, The Split, Scott & Bailey and Waterloo Road.

Who was Duke Hussey?

Marmaduke Hussey
Marmaduke Hussey. Gemma Levine/Getty Images

Marmaduke Hussey, Baron Hussey of North Bradley, also known as Duke Hussey, was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the BBC from 1986 to 1996. Hussey had previously worked at Associated Newspapers and later Times Newspapers, where he was chief executive and managing director.

As portrayed in The Crown season 5, Hussey opposed the broadcast of the Princess Diana Panorama interview, and later said of John Birt: "I wouldn't have reappointed him if I'd had the chance. I would have got rid of him."

He died in December 2006 at the age of 83.

In the episode of The Crown, Hussey is seen asking Birt whether they can run a programme celebrating the Queen, in order to recognise her wedding anniversary. Birt eventually declines, saying they will be making countless specials to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee in seven years' time.

He then informs Hussey that an interview with Diana is to be broadcast, enraging him and leading Hussey to shout that Birt will end up on the wrong side of history. Hussey later tells the Queen he will leave the BBC, saying he can't effectively govern as it is no longer a corporation he recognises.

Hussey did indeed leave the BBC in 1996, not long after the interview was broadcast.

Who plays Duke Hussey in The Crown season 5?

Richard Cordery
Richard Cordery. Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage

Like John Birt, Hussey also appears in The Crown season 5 episode 8, and is played by actor Richard Cordery.

Gleaves has previously appeared in films including Judy, The Wife, Mr Turner and Les Misérables, while his TV credits include roles in Marcella, Dickensian, Inside No 9, Midsomer Murders and Whitechapel.

The Crown seasons 1-5 are available to stream on Netflix now. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

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