The BBC has picked up the gauntlet that News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch threw down this week when his company charged that the broadcaster used manipulated emails in a critical documentary broadcast on Monday. A BBC1 show, Panorama, said that News Corp and a video software and content security provider it has controlled, NDS, illegally helped to sabotage Murdoch’s pay TV rivals. “We stand by the Panorama investigation,” the BBC says in a statement. The emails cited in the program “were not manipulated, as NDS claims” and nothing in the company’s letter to the BBC demanding a retraction “undermines the evidence presented in the program.” Panorama and a separate report by the Australian Financial Review revived this week long-simmering allegations that NDS helped to crack encryption codes used by satellite and pay TV companies that competed with Murdoch-controlled services including UK’s Sky. The data found its way to the Internet, enabling consumers to easily pirate the TV services — and undermine the businesses. For example, the BBC show reported that security codes for ITV’s ONdigital TV smart cards were hacked as far back as 1998 contributing to its demise in 2002.
Murdoch followed the firm but measured responses to the broadcast by NDS and News Corp COO Chase Carey with tweets that attacked “Enemies many different agendas, but worst old toffs and right wingers who still want last century’s status quo with their monoplies.” He added: “Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing.” The charges against News Corp and NDS come at a sensitive time: They feed into the narrative raised in the UK hacking and bribery scandals that Murdoch’s company stops at nothing to get what it wants. Also, this month Cisco agreed to pay $4B to buy NDS, which is now 49% owned by News Corp. That deal is expected to close in the second half of this year, after it’s reviewed by antitrust officials.