News Corp President Chase Carey said that allegations in a BBC documentary that a subsidiary ran a secret unit promoting pirating of pay-TV rivals were “unfair and baseless”, backing a call for the broadcaster to retract the allegations.
The BBC’s Panorama alleged in a documentary broadcast on Monday that NDS, a pay-TV smartcard maker recently sold by News Corp for $5 billion (£3.14 billion), hired a consultant to post the encryption codes of ITV Digital, a rival of the then Sky TV, on his website.
Widespread piracy after the online 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 statement late on Wednesday, Carey said the BBC program presented “manipulated and mischaracterised emails to produce unfair and baseless accusations.”
In a separate letter to Panorama, Executive Chairman of NDS Abe Peled asked the broadcaster to retract the allegations immediately.
Carey said that News Corp fully endorsed Peled’s letter to Panorama.
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 emails from NDS, added to questions over News Corp practices after reports that NDS promoted the piracy of 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 that ate into revenues as viewers using pirated cards watched it for free.