London: News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch vowed to "hit back hard" against what his company president called baseless allegations from the BBC that a subsidiary ran a secret unit to promote piracy against pay-TV rivals.
The BBC's Panorama documentary alleged in a broadcast on Monday that NDS, a pay-TV smartcard maker recently sold by News Corp for USD 5 billion, hired a consultant to post the encryption codes of ITV Digital, a rival of the then Sky TV, on his website.
In a statement late on Wednesday, News Corp president Chase Carey said the program presented "manipulated and mischaracterised e-mails to produce unfair and baseless accusations", and he backed NDS's call for the publicly owned British broadcaster to retract them.
Widespread piracy after the publication of the codes contributed to the 2002 collapse of ITV Digital, which had been set up by the parties that later formed ITV, Britain's leading free-to-air commercial broadcaster, in 1998.
In a separate letter to Panorama, the executive chairman of NDS, Abe Peled, asked the broadcaster to retract the allegations immediately.
Carey said News Corp fully endorsed Peled's letter.
On Twitter, chief executive Rupert Murdoch, who has had a number of run-ins with the free-to-air BBC, said: "Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing".
Separately, an Australian paper alleged that NDS had let piracy go unchecked at US satellite broadcaster DirecTV less than a year before News Corp looked into buying the business.
The article in the Australian Financial Review, citing internal e-mails from NDS, added to questions over News Corp practices after reports that NDS promoted piracy against its rivals and after scandals at News Corp's British newspapers.
NDS said in a statement that it "completely rejects the allegations made by the Australian Financial Review".
DirecTV, which depended on NDS for the security of its scrambling system, suffered major piracy problems around the turn of the century, losing revenue as viewers using pirated cards watched it for free.
First Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012, 13:34