News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch Thursday condemned as "lies and libels" claims his media giant promoted pirating of pay-TV rivals in Britain and Australia, warning he was preparing to hit back.
The company has been hit by charges that it used hackers to undermine security systems used by On Digital in Britain and sabotaged its competitors Austar and Optus in Australia.
The latest allegations pile more pressure on Murdoch's embattled media empire, which is already under siege over a phone-hacking scandal that forced the closure of its British Sunday tabloid the News of the World.
The piracy claims relate to a unit within News Corp. subsidiary News Datacom Systems, later known as NDS, which was sold to technology giant Cisco for US$5 billion this month.
The BBC's flagship current affairs show Panorama on Monday aired the claims in Britain, which were followed by lengthy allegations in the Australian Financial Review, owned by rival Fairfax Media, on Wednesday.
While Murdoch did not directly name the media organisations, he tweeted: "Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with the lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back, which preparing."
In a second tweet, he added: "Enemies many different agendas, but worst old toffs and right wingers who still want last century's status quo with their monoplies (sic)."
Murdoch's right-hand man, News Corp. president Chase Carey, issued a statement singling out the BBC for attack.
"The BBC's Panorama programme was a gross misrepresentation of NDS's role as a high quality and leading provider of technology and services to the pay-TV industry, as are many of the other press accounts that have piled on -- if not exaggerated -- the BBC's inaccurate claims," he said.
"Panorama presented manipulated and mischaracterised emails to produce unfair and baseless accusations.
"News Corporation is proud to have worked with NDS and to have supported them in their aggressive fight against piracy and copyright infringement."
The BBC accused NDS of leaking information from British broadcaster On Digital, a rival to Murdoch's BSkyB, which could be used to create counterfeit smart cards, giving people free access to cable television.
On Digital collapsed in 2002.
NDS categorically rejected the claims and in a letter to the BBC, released Thursday, the company's executive chairman Abe Peled said the broadcaster "seriously misconstrued legitimate activities we undertake".
He said the programme had been "deeply damaging" to NDS and News Corp. and demanded a retraction.
The BBC programme was followed by the Australian Financial Review report claiming that News Corp., through NDS, sabotaged its competitors in Australia by promoting high-tech piracy that damaged Austar and Optus.
It said this happened at a time when News Corp. was moving to take control of the Australian pay-TV industry.
The newspaper said its evidence was unearthed during a four-year investigation based on 14,000 emails.
News Corp.'s Australian arm News Limited said the report was "full of factual inaccuracies, flawed references, fanciful conclusions and baseless accusations".
An internal memo to staff by News Limited chief Kim Williams, seen by AFP, said the Panorama programme was based on the work of the Australian Financial Review.
The Australian government said it had no plans to refer the corporate piracy claims to police, but suggested the newspaper should do so if it has the evidence.
"If there is anyone who has in their possession material that they think raises concern about a criminal offence, then they should refer it to the police," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.
News Limited said the Australian Federal Police had been assisting their British counterparts in relation to the phone-hacking scandal since July last year.
Murdoch shut down the News of the World in July after evidence emerged of widespread phone hacking at the tabloid, but his British newspapers continue to be dogged by allegations that they covered up the practice.© ANP/AFP