Viewers on both sides of the Atlantic will this week be able to view alleged claims about law-breaking at News Corp. The BBC’s current affairs flagship programme Panorama is airing its documentary on Monday evening (March 26) and which focuses on old allegations concerning NDS. NDS provides ‘smart card’ encryption and other services for pay-TV broadcasters.
PBS will air its show (Murdoch’s Scandal) on Tuesday and looks at the so-called ‘phone-hacking’ scandals at News Corp-owned newspapers. PBS’s UK service, available on BSkyB’s digital satellite platform and via Virgin Media cable, will screen the programme on Wednesday March 28.
The NDS allegations, which industry observers have known about for many years, revolve around alleged claims that NDS, which at the time was a News Corp-owned business, deliberately broke the law to damage or bring down commercial rivals including Canal Plus, EchoStar, Nagra Kudelski, and others.
The allegations have been heard in numerous court battles between NDS and the assorted plaintiffs, and NDS has successfully rebutted all the claims. Earlier this month, NDS received the final payment, covering court costs and interest from the plaintiffs relating to the old legal actions.
News Corp issued a statement this past week saying that any such allegations aired by the BBC documentary “are …. defamatory, false and highly damaging”.
NDS says it has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and has repeatedly stressed this with the Panorama producers. The BBC says it is aware of the statements and will be airing the programme as planned.
The dilemma for Rupert Murdoch is that this degree of dirty washing being aired in public, no matter how unfounded, can only damage News Corp’s status in the USA where it already risks running foul of Department of Justice and Securities & Exchange Commission rules, and in particular the USA’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.