Ministers have promised to intervene to restore trust in the BBC through an operations review next year.
The warning comes after Lord Dyson’s report revealed unethical practices a BBC journalist engaged in in 1995 to obtain an interview with Princess Diana.
Prince William and Prince Harry publicly reacted to the report – prompting ministers to launch discussions over the scandal.
The Guardian has reported that a senior government figure involved in BBC discussions said governance rules had changed and improved over the past 26 years. But the official said this would not be enough for ministers to not get involved.
A government minister said: “When you have a future king of England attacking in a pretty strong fashion the state-owned broadcaster, then the government needs to be seen to be taking that seriously.
“While there is now stronger internal management than there was then and stronger external regulation, there is a long way to go to change the culture of the BBC.”
Government insiders said the midterm review of the BBC’s charter, set to start next year, and previously intended as a mere “health check”, would be “beefed up”.
Stronger BBC regulation
It would look at a range of potential structural changes, including enhancing the role of the regulator Ofcom.
Another senior government source said: “Next year’s midterm charter review is an opportunity to strengthen the BBC’s governance arrangements if necessary.
“We will reflect carefully on Lord Dyson’s report, to ensure that recent reforms would prevent the appalling failures that he sets out in it.
“The BBC’s reputation has taken a significant knock. We need to restore trust in it to make sure this can never happen again.”
Labour’s former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, who worked as a BBC reporter before becoming an MP, accused the BBC of a “culture of arrogance”.
He said: “It’s not good enough for BBC ‘sources’ to claim the Diana interview happened 25 years ago and that governance and cultural changes since then mean such egregious mistakes couldn’t happen again.
“They have – through Gilligan/Hutton, Jimmy Savile, equal pay for women, Cliff Richard and less high-profile cases.”
Bradshaw said the BBC should accept “for its own good and ours that self-regulation doesn’t work” and added that only fully independent regulation would do.
He said: “The BBC also has immediate questions to answer on how on earth Mr Bashir was rehired to fill the very senior job of religious affairs editor. This followed a less-than-distinguished period outside the BBC, including in the US and a lengthy and comprehensive review by the BBC of its religious programming and coverage.
“I am not aware of any improvement or increase in the BBC’s religious affairs output following Mr Bashir’s appointment – in fact, the opposite seems to have been the case.”