BBC Trust rejects Fifa's Dirty Secrets complaint

A complaint that the BBC damaged England’s bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup by broadcasting Panorama documentary Fifa’s Dirty Secrets has been rejected by the corporation’s governing body.

The complainant, who is not named in today’s report by the BBC Trust‘s editorial standards committee, said the timing of the broadcast – three days before Fifa’s vote was held on 2 December – greatly affected England’s chances of winning the bid.

They argued that there would have been ‘no impact if it had been shown a week later’and that as an impartial organisation the BBC ‘shouldn’t do anything to positively or negatively impact on others”.

The complainant also claimed that ‘given the evidence of corruption unearthed by the programme it was naïve to think that Fifa’s decision would be unaffected by such coverage”.

The Panorama investigation alleged that three Fifa executives took bribes as part of a wider corruption scandal involving £$100m of secret payments, and accused a fourth executive of involvement in the corrupt sale of World Cup tickets.

The standards committee was asked to look into the complainant’s allegations after they were rejected by both the Trust’s head of editorial standards and the director of BBC News, Helen Boaden.

According to today’s report, Boaden argued that ‘the issues raised by the programme were relevant to the bidding process, showing the manner in which Fifa officials behave”.

She also said that the story was about to break anyway and that a ‘fair Fifa process was unlikely to be affected by the programme and an unfair one was unlikely to be affected by a programme broadcast at that late stage in the deliberations”.

The report states: ‘[Boaden] concluded by saying that the BBC, as an impartial organisation, did not have a position on England’s bid – either for or against it”.

The standards committee said that the decision not to proceed with an appeal against the findings of the head of editorial standards was the correct one.

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