They’re at it again. Rupert Murdoch’s already disgraced media giant is plunged into a fresh hacking scandal, accused of killing rival TV Co.
This time News Corp. stands accused of destroying a rival to its Sky TV empire in the UK by hacking into its computer systems – with the help of a German hacker and pirate website NDS, a secretly News co-owned company.
The allegations aired on BBC Panorama current affairs programme on Monday, called “Murdoch’s TV pirates,” claim hackers hired by News Corp allegedly broke computer codes of ONDigital’s smart cards – a Pay TV rival owned by ITV, reports The Guardian.
ONDigital was said to have gone bust following the hacks which destroyed its system and forced it out of the lucrative Pay TV market in the UK. It has since been renamed ITV Digital.
The hackers then sent the cracked codes to another pirate website – The House of Ill Compute – who published them online, allowing viewers to use the ONDigital services illegally and without having to cough up for subscriptions – bleeding its revenue stream dry.
Lee Gibling, founder of The House of Ill Compute also known as Thoic, alleges he was paid by former police officer and NDS head of security to publish the stolen details on its site.
“We wanted people to be able to update these cards themselves, we didn’t want them buying a single card and then finding they couldn’t get channels. We wanted them to stay and keep with On Digital, flogging it until it broke,” Gibling told Panorama.
NDS denies the allegations saying they are “simply not true…NDS is a global leader in the fight against pay-TV piracy, having repeatedly and successfully assisted law enforcement in that important effort.”
The 30 minute BBC investigative show also “examines the role of former senior police officers in recruiting people to break the law – to bring down Murdoch’s commercial rival.”
These allegations, if proved correct, will mean fresh worries for News Corp after the phone hacking scandals involving two of its UK newspapers (News of the World and The Sun), resulted in the closing of the former last July with a string of other casualties including top News execs including James Murdoch, who resigned as executive chairman of News International and Rebecca Brookes as News Intl CEO.
Brookes as former editor of both tabloid titles was recently rearrested for her role in the phone hacking scandal which involved various celebs including Jude Law, Sienna Miller and Charlotte Church.
The allegations could mean even more headaches for News Corp UK operation with watchdog Ofcom already questioning whether British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) is “fit and proper” to own 39.1% of Sky TV – the country’s largest subscription TV player.
“Clearly allegations of TV hacking are far more serious than phone hacking,” said Labour MP Tom Watson who was already involved in Operation Weeting, the UK gov’s investigation into phone hacking allegations and is well known for his disdain of the Murdoch empire.
Watson also said it was “inconceivable that they (Ofcom) would not want to look at these new allegations.”
“It also seems inconceivable to me that if these allegations are true that Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch will pass that test,” he warned.