Interactive TV News Round-Up (IV): BBC "Panorama," NDS, BSkyB, ONdigital

--BBC's "Panorama" Claims NDS Used Hacker to Sabotage BSkyB Rival, ONdigital
--NDS Issues Rebuttal Statement in Response to "Panorama" Report

Because the [itvt] editorial team has been working on The TV of Tomorrow Show 2012, we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary format.

  • The BBC current-affairs show, "Panorama," reported Monday that News Corp.-subsidiary, NDS (note: the latter is in the process of being acquired by Cisco--see the article published on, March 16th), used a computer hacker to sabotage ONdigital, a UK-based digital terrestrial pay-TV platform (subsequently renamed ITV Digital) that was considered a potential competitive threat to its News Corp.-stablemate, BSkyB. According to the report, entitled "Murdoch's TV Pirates," NDS leaked information from ONdigital which could be used to create counterfeit smartcards that enabled free access to the platform. ONdigital/ITV Digital went out of business in 2002, at least in part because of widespread piracy by consumers. The report centers on hacker, Lee Gibling, who claims that he was paid by NDS to publish stolen information on ONdigital smartcards via his Web site (The House of Ill-Compute or Thoic), and that his contact at NDS was the company's then-head of UK security, Ray Adams. The timing of the "Panorama" report is particularly problematic for News Corp., as UK communications regulator, Ofcom, is currently examining whether News Corp. and its chief, Rupert Murdoch, are "fit and proper" owners of BSkyB (note: News Corp. owns a 39% stake in the satellite-TV company). The report can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer (in the UK only) here, and BBC News' account of the report can be read here. Meanwhile, the Australian Financial Review has published the results of its own separate investigation into alleged pay-TV piracy by News Corp.
  • NDS has issued a statement in response to the "Panorama" report: "NDS is a global leader in the fight against pay-TV piracy, having repeatedly and successfully assisted law enforcement in that important effort," the statement reads. "Like most companies in the conditional access industry--and many law enforcement agencies--NDS uses industry contacts to track and catch both hackers and pirates. This is neither illegal nor unethical. And, to ensure that all activity remains completely within legal bounds, NDS staff and their contacts operate under a clear code of conduct for operating undercover. These allegations were the subject of a long-running court case in the United States. This concluded with NDS being totally vindicated and its accuser [EchoStar] having to pay almost $19 million in costs--a point that the BBC neglected to include. [Note: NDS's press release announcing its legal victory over EchoStar can be viewed here.]...NDS never used or sought to use the 'Thoic' Web site for any illegal purpose. NDS paid Lee Gibling for his expertise so information from 'Thoic' could be used to track and catch hackers and pirates...It is simply not true that NDS used the Thoic Web site to sabotage the commercial interests of ONdigital/ITV Digital or indeed any rival. The United States Department of Justice, a federal court jury, a federal trial court, and a federal appellate court have all rejected allegations that NDS was responsible for TV piracy or that NDS distributed codes that facilitated that piracy. As part of the fight against pay-TV piracy, all companies in the conditional access industry--and many law enforcement agencies--come to possess codes that could enable hackers to access services for free. It is wrong to claim that NDS has ever been in the possession of any codes for the purpose of promoting hacking or piracy."

North America