LONDON (AP) _ The BBC agreed Tuesday to a government request that it not broadcast a television film featuring an alleged leader of the Irish Republican Army.

Home Secretary Leon Brittan had said the documentary would give ''succor'' to terrorists and publicity to the outlawed IRA, which is fighting to drive the British out of Northern Ireland.

The 12-member board of governors of the British Broadcasting Corp. met for seven hours Tuesday, then issued a statement saying it would be unwise to broadcast the documentary in its current form because ''the program's intention would continue to be misread and misinterpreted.''

The BBC has withstood strong government criticism before, and controversy immediately surrounded the decision to withhold the documentary.

BBC Chairman Stuart Young denied the corporation had succumbed to government pressure.

''The program is not being transmitted because the climate is not right,'' he said. ''I must emphasize that we have not yielded to pressure from any quarter whatsoever. It was totally a decision by the governors.''

Two extremists are the focus of the program, which is called ''At the Edge of Union'' and deals with Northern Ireland's sectarian conflict: Martin McGuinness, reputed to be chief of staff of the outlawed IRA, and Gregory Campbell, a hard-line Protestant leader who advocates a shoot-to-kill policy against IRA guerrillas.

McGuinness said the decision showed that the British government ''does not trust (the) intelligence'' of its people. ''The irony is that British politicians are outraged when such things happetant-dominated Northern Ireland, which the IRA wants to unite with the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Republic of Ireland.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had not seen the program, said last week that if the BBC broadcast it she would ''condemn them utterly.''

Mrs. Thatcher and Brittan, along with most members of her Cabinet, narrowly escaped an IRA bomb that killed six people in October at Brighton's Grand Hotel, where her Conservative Party was holding its annual conference.

Brittan said Monday the BBC documentary ''appeared to be giving succor to terrorist organizations, and the opportunity for public advocacy of terrorism methods by a prominent member of the IRA.''

The BBC board, while withdrawing the program from its Aug. 7 slot in the Real Lives series, said it would seek a meeting with Brittan ''in the light of the profound issues'' involved.

The BBC is independent under its 1922 license. The government has power under the license to veto any program, but has not used it, and also appoints the board of governors.

Sir Hugh Green, who was BBC chairman from 1960 to 1969, said he found the board's decision ''deeply disturbing.'' Asked on the BBC's commercial rival, Independent Television News, whether the BBC was ''running scared'' of Mrs. Thatcher, Green replied, ''I think so. I'm afraid so.''

The National Council for Civil Liberties issued a statement denouncing government ''interference'' and said the program would only have revealed terrorists ''for the violent men they are.''

The program shows McGuinness in a political campaign in his role as a leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA's legal political wing.

McGuinness was elected to the province's advisory assembly in 1982, but refused to take his seat in protest against British rule. The Sinn Fein changed its tactics in elections for local councils in May, and McGuinness occupies a seat on the Londonderry council that he won in that vote.

In the 1970s, McGuinness served two terms in Irish prisons after his conviction for being a member of the IRA, which also is outlawed in the Irish Republic.