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NDS says Beeb's Panorama emails were 'manipulated'

Look! They moved the 'To' line up one!

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TV crypto company NDS says the BBC misled viewers in a Panorama investigation broadcast on Monday. The former Murdoch company, which was acquired by Cisco earlier this month, has released what it says are the original emails.

The Beeb alleged that NDS gave a "hacker honeypot" website named Thoic access codes that could be used in counterfeit smart cards to view channels offered by pay-TV firm ONdigital without paying for them. ONdigital, which folded in 2002, was a rival to the Murdoch empire's Sky television business. It has been suggested that piracy of ONdigital's content contributed to its downfall, benefiting Sky.

Monday's BBC programme relied on fresh claims by former Thoic operator Lee Gibling and emails obtained from the hard drive of former London police commander Ray Adams, who was head of security at NDS in 2002. Gibling was retained by NDS as a paid informant.

Now NDS says that the BBC reversed the subject line ("4u") and recipient line ("radams@ndsuk.com") to give the misleading impression that Adams was forwarding a link to the pirate website, rather than receiving one.

What the BBC broadcast

What NDS says was actually sent

In another email, the BBC omitted headers and formatting information that showed the message was an internal one between NDS employees forwarding an external Usenet posting.

What the BBC broadcast

What NDS says was actually sent

The emails were copied from Adams' hard drive after he left NDS in 2002. In a press statement NDS said it is possible the messages were tampered with before Panorama obtained them – but it was the duty of the broadcaster to convey accurate information.

“The fact that you relied on manipulated email chains, without checking their authenticity with us prior to broadcast, demonstrates a flagrant disregard to the BBC’s broadcasting code, misleading viewers and inciting widespread misreporting,” said NDS.

The BBC is obliged by its charter to be impartial, even when reporting on business rivals like the Murdoch companies.

For its part, the Beeb issued a statement saying:

We stand by the Panorama investigation. We have received NDS's correspondence and are aware of News Corp's rejection of Panorama's revelations. However, the emails shown in the programme were not manipulated, as NDS claims, and nothing in the correspondence undermines the evidence presented in the programme.

There are good reasons to think that ONdigital/ITV digital would have folded in 2002 even if there hadn't been a single pirate smartcard able to access its channels. ®

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