Media giant News Corp has been accused of sabotaging its rivals by distributing pirated pay-TV smart cards to millions of customers around the world, adding pressure to the Rupert Murdoch-owned empire already under fire over hacking claims in Britain.
A four year investigation by Australia’s Financial Review newspaper found that the company set up a secret unit to crack the codes of its competitors.
The pirated cards were then sold on the black market, costing rival broadcasters tens of millions of dollars.
The Australian government said on Wednesday allegations of any criminality should be investigated by police.
“These are serious allegations, and any allegations of criminal activity should be referred to the AFP (Australian Federal police) for investigation,” Stephen Conroy, a spokeswoman for Communications Minister, told Reuters news agency.
Angus Grigg, one of the Financial Review reporters who investigated the story, said his newspaper had published 14,400 emails which gave a systematic account of the inner workings of a News Corp subsidiary who carried out the hacking.
“What they are essentially showing is that there was a systematic campaign within News Corp to hack into the systems of its commercial rivals,” Grigg told Al Jazeera. “They were encouraging and fostering hackers to crack the codes of smart cards for paid television, which allows viewers to receive a signal from satellite or cable television – to crack the codes of its rival pay TV companies for its own commercial gains.”
The Financial Review said the piracy was part of strategy by News Corp to financially cripple its competitors making them ripe for takeover of companies such as Direct TV and ITV digital.
News Corp, already embattled in a messy hacking scandal in the UK, has denied the recent accusations.
On March 14, British police arrested six people in the long-running saga that has shaken News Corp, which owns the now-defunct News of the World Sunday tabloid at the centre of the investigations.
The scandal has also damaged police and politicians from all major political parties, revealing extremely close ties between the media and the upper elements of the establishment.