The show, broadcast just three days before the announcement on Thursday of who would host the 2018 World Cup, 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.

But Thompson today 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 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 Mr 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."