News Corp firm is accused of sabotaging rival
The new allegations were made by the BBC on last night’s Panorama.
They focussed on NDS, a company which manufactures smartcards for News
Corporations’ pay-TV companies across the world. News Corporation recently
agreed to sell the company and the deal is in the process of completion.
They allege that NDS hired a man named Lee Gibling who ran a website called
the House of Ill Compute (THOIC).
NDS is said to have sourced the set-top box codes for ITV Digital given them
to Mr Gibling and had him distribute them on his website.
With the codes available it meant that huge numbers of ITV Digital set-top box
owners simply used the codes for free television rather than pay a monthly
subscription to the channel.
The show alleged that Mr Gibling was being instructed by Ray Adams, a former
Metropolitan Police officer who ran the security department for NDS.
Internal NDS documents, obtained by Panorama, show a hacked code was passed to
Mr Adams from a technology expert inside the company.
Mr Gibling claimed he was paid £60,000 a year by NDS and that while the
website was in his name it essentially belonged to NDS.
The collapse of ITV Digital led to 1,500 job losses and plunged scores of
lower league football teams into financial crisis.
Shortly before its collapse ITV Digital had entered into a £315m television
deal with the Football League. When the money did not materialise many clubs
struggled for survival.
It is in stark contrast to the riches currently bestowed upon the Premier
League by the BSkyB television deal.
ITV Digital’s former chief technical officer, Simon Dore, told the programme
that piracy was “the killer blow for the business, there is no question”.
“The business had its issues aside from the piracy… but those issues I
believe would have been solvable by careful and good management. The real
killer, the hole beneath the water line, was the piracy. We couldn’t recover
NDS has faced similar allegations of piracy previously. In 2002 Canal+ filed a
lawsuit in California alleging that NDS “spent large amounts of money and
resources” to crack the code on television smart cards used by a Canal+
subsidiary in Italy.
That lawsuit — described at the time by NDS as “outrageous and baseless” —
ended when News Corp acquired the Canal+ Italian operation and merged it
with its own in the country, creating Sky Italia.
The following year NDS faced similar allegations relating to another rival,
EchoStar. NDS denied the allegations and was later cleared by a US court and
awarded $18.9 million (£12million) in damages.
NDS denies the current allegations. The company told the BBC that THOIC was
only used to gather intelligence on hackers.
It said Lee Gibling worked as a consultant who was used legitimately to inform
Mr Adams denied the allegations when secretly filmed by the BBC saying he
“would have arrested” Mr Gibling if he knew he was involved in piracy.
Prior to the show’s broadcast a News Corporation spokesman said: “NDS has
consistently denied any wrongdoing to Panorama and we fully accept their
A spokeswoman for NDS said “NDS is a global leader in the fight against pay-TV
piracy, having repeatedly and successfully assisted law enforcement in that
“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.
“NDS never used or sought to use the “Thoic” website 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 website to sabotage the
commercial interests of ONdigital / ITV Digital or indeed any rival.
“It is wrong to claim that NDS has ever been in the possession of any codes
for the purpose of promoting hacking or piracy.”