Australia: No probe into News Corp. piracy claims

AP News
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Posted: Mar 29, 2012 12:38 AM
Australia: No probe into News Corp. piracy claims

Australian officials said Thursday they are not investigating a newspaper's claims that Rupert Murdoch's embattled News Corp. was involved in a piracy-promoting plot aimed at crippling its competitors.

News Limited, the Australian arm of News Corp., has denied the allegations contained in Wednesday's report by the Australian Financial Review, which accused the company of using a secret security unit to sabotage competitors by encouraging piracy of its satellite TV rivals in the 1990s.

"If there's any evidence of that, then the Australian Financial Review should put it to the federal police, but we have not made a reference, the police have not received a reference," Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Thursday, shooting down reports that the government had called for an investigation.

A federal police spokeswoman confirmed the agency had not launched a probe into the claims.

The latest accusations against News Corp. comes amid a phone hacking scandal in Britain that led to the collapse of the company's News of the World tabloid newspaper.

The Financial Review _ which is owned by Fairfax, News Limited's main competitor in Australia _ said in its report that a News Corp. subsidiary called NDS Group set up a secret security unit in the 1990s to combat piracy against its own pay-TV companies. But the paper claims the group ended up encouraging hackers to pirate the programming of News Corp.'s satellite TV competitors, costing those companies tens of millions of dollars.

News Corp. owns 25 percent of Foxtel, Australia's largest pay-TV provider, which is currently looking to buy its rival Austar.

The paper said it spent four years investigating the alleged scheme and had uncovered more than 14,000 internal emails that back up its claims.

In a statement, News Limited said the newspaper's report was "full of factual inaccuracies, flawed references, fanciful conclusions and baseless accusations."

NDS Group, which has faced similar piracy accusations in other countries, also rejected the story, and said the same allegations had already been shot down by a U.S. court.

"These allegations _ most of which are 10 or more years old _ were the subject of a long-running court case in the United States which concluded with NDS being totally vindicated of all allegations of piracy and its accuser having to pay almost $19 (million) in costs," the company said in a statement.

Earlier this week, a BBC documentary made similar accusations against NDS, saying a consultant was paid to publish access codes for News Corp.'s British rival ITV Digital, which would allow users to watch the content for free. NDS has also denied those claims. In a statement, News Corp. President Chase Carey called the BBC's accusations "unfair and baseless."