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News Corp firm accused of hacking rival

NDS, a subsidiary of News Corp, allegedly released security codes of ITV Digital.

A company owned by Rupert Murdoch’s New Corporation hacked the computers of its main UK rival in order to steal security codes, a BBC programme has alleged.

The allegations, broadcast on Panorama, are based on emails and interviews with two of the alleged conspirators including one who ran a website controlled by NDS, a Murdoch-owned company.

The programme claimed that NDS published security codes online, which allowed viewers to watch ITV Digital channels for free. The widespread availability of the codes contributed to the collapse of ITV Digital, previously ON Digital, in 2002. The ITV company was Sky TV’s main rival.  

If true, the allegations would seriously undermine News Corporation’s chances of passing a "fit and proper" test, which is legally required to run a broadcaster in Britain. Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, has established an investigative unit called Project Apple to establish whether BSkyB, 39.1 per cent owned by News Corp, meets the test.

Tom Watson, Labour MP and member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that has been examining phone-hacking, said: "Clearly allegations of TV hacking are far more serious than phone hacking. It seems inconceivable that they [Ofcom] would not want to look at these new allegations."

News Corp and NDS both deny any wrongdoing. A spokesman for News Corp said on Monday night: "News Corporation is proud to have worked with NDS, whose industry-leading technology has transformed TV viewing for millions of people across the world, and to have supported them in their aggressive fight against piracy and copyright infringement."