News Corp To ‘Hit Back Hard’ At New Allegations

March 30, 2012 12:55 a.m.

Rupert Murdoch has taken to Twitter to fire back at allegations of misconduct at the Australian arm of News Corporation, saying he’s ready to “hit back hard” against his competitors and enemies.The allegations of dubious activity at the embattled company came first from the BBC and also the Australian Financial Review, which published a report this week alleging that News Corp promoted a “wave of high-tech piracy” aimed at hurting the company’s rivals. From their report:

A four-year investigation by The Australian Financial Review has revealed a global trail of corporate dirty tricks directed against competitors by a secretive group of former policemen and intelligence officers within News Corp known as Operational Security.

Their actions devastated News’s competitors, and the resulting waves of high-tech piracy assisted News to bid for pay TV businesses at reduced prices – including DirecTV in the US, Telepiu in Italy and Austar. These targets each had other commercial weaknesses quite apart from piracy.

The BBC’s Panorama documentary program this week reported that a News Corp subsidiary, NDS, used piracy and hacking to sabotage its competitors. News Corp accused the BBC of “gross misrepresentation” and NDS demanded the BBC issue a retraction.

Murdoch responded to the reports: “Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing.”

It’s not clear what exactly Murdoch is referring to, and News Corp declined to comment on the statements. But he continued the Twitter tirade:

Michael Wolff — author of “The Man Who Owns the News,” a biography of Murdoch — said the new revelations provide more evidence of how the company has always been run. “This company built its success by being as aggressive as it possibly can be,” Wolff told TPM. “It was always pushing the envelope and would push it until someone would push back.”

Now that the company is seen as vulnerable, more details will surface, he said. “There’s broad evidence at this point that (News Corp) is, if not a house of cards, something significantly less formidable than we once might have thought of it as.”

Australian officials on Thursday said that they are not investigating the allegations yet. “If there’s any evidence of (wrongdoing), then the Australian Financial Review should put it to the federal police, but we have not made a reference, the police have not received a reference,” Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Thursday, according to the AP. News Limited, the Australian subsidiary of the media empire, said in a statement that the report was “full of factual inaccuracies, flawed references, fanciful conclusions and baseless accusations.”

Murdoch’s tweets show a man increasingly alone, Wolff said. “Those tweets are what Rupert Murdoch sounds like when he doesn’t have someone tempering him or editing him,” he said. They show a man who believes that everyone is against him. “Richard Nixon comes to mind,” Wolff said.

The furor over the company’s phone hacking scandal has died down a bit since we last checked in, but the investigation into journalistic malpractice has been ongoing. And, of course, News Corp’s heir-apparent, James Murdoch, has resigned from a number of corporate boards in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

PBS’ FRONTLINE this week also devoted an hour of primetime television to investigate the phone hacking, suggesting the scandal will continue to unfold for years. Guardian reporter Nick Davies — who broke a significant amount of phone hacking news for the British paper — told FRONTLINE the saga is “weirder” than the journalism story of the century in the UK because it takes you to the center of media, police and political power. “So really, ultimately this is a story about the power elite and the abuse of power…” Davies said. And it’s far from over.

“It’s almost unstoppable, this process,” he added. “… we have not yet got to the bottom of the barrel.”

Wolff sees the Murdochs eventually departing the company and its newspapers sold. News Corp has the benefit of having a lot of cash on hand, and a number of people not named Murdoch currently run the company. But, Wolff said, “News Corp as we know it is over.”

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