Following comments made by his predecessor Kim Williams that coverage of an alleged pay-TV piracy in The Australian Financial Review, was “shameful” and “nothing more than an exercise in tar and feathering,” current Foxtel chief executive Richard Freudenstein has described the publication’s reports on the pay-TV market “one of the poorest pieces of journalism I’ve ever seen,” claiming they were full of unsubstantiated pieces of information.
“There’s no central allegation certainly about Foxtel, even about NDS I’d be surprised. There’s no proof or concrete evidence and I truly believe had it been any other company other than a News Corporation company there’s no way Fairfax would’ve run that story,” he suggested in The Australian.
The Fairfax Media title had alleged that News subsidiary NDS was involved in a wave of piracy designed to hurt pay-TV providers, including Optus, Austar and Foxtel, in which News Corporation (publisher of The Australian) owns 25 per cent.
Freudenstein, commenting on the matter for the first time, worked at News’ British satellite arm BSkyB in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period in which the AFR’s claims are said to have taken place.
The AFR first published allegations about NDS two days after BBC current affairs programme Panorama made similar allegations about News and NDS in relation to BSkyB.
Freudenstein called into question the timing of the AFR stories, published a day before the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was scheduled to rule on Foxtel’s acquisition of Austar. The ACCC delayed its decision until April 10, eventually confirming that it would not oppose the deal after accepting court-enforceable undertakings from Foxtel.