BBC defends controversial FIFA broadcast

AFP, Sunday 5 Dec 2010

The BBC defended a broadcast leveling allegations of bribery at FIFA on Sunday

Joseph Blatter
Joseph Blatter unveils Russia as hosts of the World Cup 2018

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Sunday defended a broadcast leveling allegations of bribery at FIFA despite the programme being seen in some quarters as having helped derail England's chances of hosting the 2018 World Cup.

BBC director general Mark Thompson insisted the BBC was right to make the broadcast which went out just three days before Thursday's announcement handing the tournament to Russia and the 2022 event to Qatar.

The broadcast made claims about four of the 22-strong executive of world football's governing body, prompting FIFA president Sepp Blatter to criticise the "evils of the media" in a speech to the body's executive immediately before the vote, which saw England eliminated in the first round with just two of 22 votes.

But Thompson told BBC television the corporation was "right" to screen the Panorama show as it contained "significant information about matters of very serious public interest and public concern".

"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," Thompson said.

He added that although a programme might appear "impolitic or inconvenient", he believed that "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," he added.

England's failure to win the 2018 vote after FIFA had commended its technical dossier as excellent has caused consternation at the top of the English game with the acting chairman of the Football Association saying he will not take the job on a permanent basis because he "cannot trust" FIFA.

In a letter to FA board members published Saturday, Roger Burden said: "I had applied for the position of chairman. I recognise that an important part of the role is liaison with FIFA, our global governing body. I am not prepared to deal with people whom I cannot trust and I have withdrawn my candidacy."

Burden added that, given widespread praise for the England bid, "it is difficult to believe that the voting was an objective process."


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