Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is facing a police investigation in his native Australia, throwing his attempt to tighten his grip on its powerful regional media into jeopardy.
The Australian government has called for a police inquiry into corporate hacking by the media group, after a newspaper released more than 14,000 emails allegedly showing that the company used a secret unit to sabotage competitors.
The office of Stephen Conroy, Australia's communications minister, said the allegations were "serious" and "should be referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation".
Experts said a police inquiry would be likely to derail the $2bn bid by Foxtel - the Australian pay-TV operation 25pc owned by News Corp - for rival network Austar.
Claims have been made that NDS, a technology company that was part-owned by News Corp, had a secret unit which encouraged the widespread hacking of competitors. The practice reportedly cost rivals $AUS50m (£33m) a year and helped put at least one out of business.
The Australian Financial Review made the claims this week, as it published thousands of emails from an archive held by Ray Adams, European chief of the unit called "Operational Security" between 1996 and 2002. Pay-TV operators worldwide, including ITV Digital in the UK and Austar in Australia, were subject to a major wave of piracy during the period.
On Monday, a Panorama documentary on BBC1 alleged that NDS hired a man who ran a piracy website and tasked him with publishing "cheat" codes on the internet, allowing viewers to "crack" their ITV Digital boxes and use the services for free.
Crime all over the world - that's what Rupert Murdoch hath wrought.
And unlike the phone hacking scandal, which ultimately seems to end right at Rupert's son, James Murdoch, this TV piracy hacking scandal lands right at Rupert Murdoch's door:
The Australian Financial Review aligned the NDS scandal to Murdoch senior, saying it was ''particularly sensitive because Operational Security … operates in an area which historically has had close supervision by the office of the chairman, Rupert Murdoch''.
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