News Corp subsidiary accused over rival's collapse

  • @cahalmilmo

A website used to spread information on how to pirate pay television smart cards belonging to the defunct ITV Digital was funded by part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, it was claimed last night.

The BBC's Panorama broadcast evidence suggesting that NDS, a UK-based specialist in encryption techniques for satellite TV signals, helped to pay for The House of Ill Compute (THOIC), a website for hackers run by a professional pay-TV "pirate".

The hacker, Lee Gibling, told the programme that NDS helped expand the website.

It was claimed that the work to break into the ITV Digital cards, set up in 1998 as ON Digital as a rival to Mr Murdoch's Sky TV, was carried out by NDS at a computer laboratory in Israel.

ITV Digital collapsed in 2002, leaving its shareholders with losses of £1bn. Simon Dore, ITV Digital's former chief technical officer, said the piracy, which saw counterfeit copies on the broadcaster's smart cards available on street markets around the country, was "the killer blow for the business".

The BBC reported that the NDS security unit in Britain was half funded by BSkyB but the broadcaster said it had no day-to-day involvement in its running and was not aware of THOIC.

Mr Gibling, speaking for the first time about the website, claimed that although THOIC was registered in his name, in reality it belonged to NDS.

NDS strongly denied the claims, saying it had never authorised or condoned the breaking of the code of a rival. It said it used hackers such as Mr Gibling to gain information about piracy to protect its own business.