BBC director general Mark Thompson has defended the Panorama expose of alleged bribery at Fifa that has been accused of damaging England’s chances of hosting the World Cup.
The show, broadcast just three days before the announcement on Thursday of the 2018 World Cup venue, made claims about four of the 22-strong executive of world football’s governing body.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter is understood to have referred to the “evils of the media” in a speech to the executive immediately before they voted, and there has been widespread speculation that the programme scuppered England’s bid. England received just two votes (including that of its own representative) with the 2018 World Cup going to Russia.
Thompson yesterday said the BBC was right to screen the show, which he said contained “significant information about matters of very serious public interest and public concern”.
He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday that the information was received by the Panorama team only a few weeks before the programme was broadcast.
“They spent time checking the provenance of this information, putting a number of specific allegations to the people involved, as we must do, and when the programme was ready to transmit, we transmitted it,” said Thompson.
“I have to say that I believe that in the end, although I understand that there are often reasons to believe that transmitting a programme might be impolitic or inconvenient, if you believe that you have a matter of real public concern to broadcast, there have got to be overwhelmingly powerful reasons for not broadcasting.
“I believe we were right to broadcast and I believe we have very strong support from the British public in broadcasting.”