The BBC may have spent more than a quarter of a million pounds resisting solicitor Steven Sugar's Freedom of Information campaign to force it to release the 2004 Balen report on its Middle East coverage.
But the corporation's stance is defended by its former chairman Michael Grade. The document had no place in the public domain, he said to a Board of Deputies lunch on Tuesday.
"The assumption is because the BBC won't publish it, it somehow is trying to hide something," he said. "But there is a much bigger principle at stake here. The editorial side of the BBC must be free to commission research and work on their own not for publication
but to help them do their jobs."
As for questions of reporting bias, he suggested that people who hold strongly partisan views on the Middle East - such as most of his Board audience - could not be judges of impartiality.