The Guardian is reporting that Jeremy Hunt tried to delay Panorama exposé of Fifa, this could have some big developments in the next few days:
John Ware, an award-winning veteran Panorama reporter, said that a government minister phoned the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, in November 2010 and told him it would be “helpful” if the corporation delayed the programme.Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt personally intervened in a failed attempt to delay a Panorama exposé of Fifa bribery prior to the crucial vote on the host nation for the 2018 football World Cup.
“The director general then said ‘Did you want me to phone the editor and tell him to delay it? Within minutes it will end up on MediaGuardian and it will be on your doorstep. Is that what you want?’,” Ware added, speaking on Monday night at a Royal Television Society seminar, The Future of Investigative Journalism.
During the seminar Ware described the politician only as “a government minister”. However, MediaGuardian understands that the minister referred to was Hunt.
The BBC1 broadcast of Panorama: Fifa’s Dirty Secrets went ahead as planned on Monday 29 November, three days before the crucial vote on the hosting the 2018 World Cup, despite criticism from politicians – including David Cameron, who described the timing as “frustrating” – and others that it could damage England’s bid. In the event, the England bid was humiliatingly knocked out in the first round of voting, with the 2018 Fifa tournament going to Russia.
A BBC spokesman declined to comment on Hunt’s alleged intervention over the programme, which was made by Andrew Jennings and contained a number of allegations about corruption in the World Cup selection process.
A spokeswoman for Hunt’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport declined to comment on the claims or to confirm or deny whether he called Thompson to press him to delay the Panorama broadcast.
“Jeremy Hunt has never done, and would never do, anything to undermine the editorial independence of the BBC,” the DCMS added in a statement.
At the time of the Fifa expose, Panorama’s editor Tom Giles denied that he was seeking to undermine the England bid to host the 2018 tournament and defended the decision to show the programme in a blog post on the BBC website.
“I am a football fan – and have been a club season-ticket holder and member for a long time. One of my sons played at junior level for a Championship club,” Giles wrote.
“But if some of the people who are making the final decision are corrupt – if there is a suggestion that they can be bought – how fair can the process be?”