Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ahoy me hearties, you scurvy land lubbers, hand over your codes, or it'll be walk the plank time ...

(Above: there's only one degree of separation in that title).

As you'd expect, today the smirk - the man who would have been king if only he'd had the gumption rather than being a gummy bear - leads off his piece Queensland tsunami is heading for federal ALP with a fashionable reference to billionaires:

Wayne Swan claims mining billionaires threaten our democracy. But the likes of Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart do not threaten him nearly as much as another, far more important, species - the Queensland voter.

Yep, that's it, as far as Peter Costello's noting of Clive Palmer's now notorious CIA conspiracy intervention in the Queensland election goes.

And the marvel is that this pathetic, tawdry, highly political creature - now reduced to seeking some relevance by becoming a commentator at Fairfax - somehow thought he was entitled to be chair of the Future Fund. And the braying deluded molochs of Murdoch along with him.

But speaking of the Murdoch press, there's a much more interesting game afoot in the motherland, at least for those who think of England as some kind of matriarch, as opposed to a bloody colonial patriarch.

By now the world's had a chance to look at Panorama's program Murdoch's TV Pirates (oh you can go to the Panorama site to catch a glimpse, but of course territorial restrictions apply, so speaking of pirates ... but hey, following in News Corp's footsteps, I guess if it's good enough for the alleged gamekeeper, why, where's the harm for the poachers).

This is a story that appears to have legs, and if you head off to the AFR, you can cop a preview with Murdoch cops blast over pay TV pirates, wherein it's revealed that News Corp lawyers tried to mount a pre-emptive counter-strike:

Last week News Corporation lawyers wrote to British newspapers warning that Panorama’s allegations were “serious, defamatory, false and highly damaging; we urge your paper not to republish it, especially in circumstances where our client has not been given the opportunity to respond”.

And there was more breast-beating and chest-thumping from others:

An NDS spokesman told the Financial Review last week: “Panorama have chosen to focus on issues that have been conclusively disproven, and NDS will take all necessary action to hold responsible anyone who chooses to repeat these baseless and damaging allegations.”

Uh huh. So the allegations have been made, and aired by Panorama, and repeated by many others, so we look forward to news of NDS's immediate legal action against the BBC ... and many others.

The allegations have turned up in all sorts of places. You can read about them in Murdoch TV empire accused of dirty tricks, and they also turned up on PM last night under the header New Murdoch empire hacking allegations, with a quaint denial and this coda:

The BBC did not pose questions to News Corporation ahead of broadcast and was unwilling to engage in any conversation on this issue, which is disappointing.

Disappointing! That doesn't sound like the blustering bully boy defensive legal tactics prior to the program's broadcast. Oh they're ever so disappointed at the lack of conversation and the lack of questions ...

Where's that legal action? Swift and immediate?

And you find the same sort of dilly dallying in the BBC story News Corporation firm NDS accused of ITV Digital hack.

NDS's response has been simply to refer back to a court action in the United States settled some time ago, and involving commercial transactions which soothed the pain for all involved in the action, claiming that was the end of the matter. As if. There's a new game in town. What about this new program and its actual allegations?

So now you know the sound of silence, and it isn't a tree falling in a forest and no 0ne hearing. It's News Corp and NDS playing the blocking game.

There are wider implications of course, and naturally British MP Tom Watson was first out of the block in relation to the assessment of Murdoch and News Corp as fit and proper persons to be in control of BSkyB:

"Clearly allegations of TV hacking are far more serious than phone hacking," he said. "It seems inconceivable that they (Ofcom) would not want to look at these new allegations. Ofcom are now applying the fit and proper person test to Rupert and James Murdoch. It also seems inconceivable to me that if these allegations are true that Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch will pass that test."

Indeed. And the sting in the tail to that piece:

NDS declined to be interviewed for the programme.

Yes that's the way to engage with questions and start a conversation!

Naturally The Guardian also ran a preview - Questions for News Corp over rival's collapse -
about the sordid and sorry world of codes and intrigue and sledgehammers and hard drives, and there's also a little background to the itv Digital saga here in Was ONdigital beaten fair and square, or undermined?

Of course this also revives the long simmering tension between the BBC and News Corp - who can forget James Murdoch bleating in 2009 about the dominant, chilling impact of the BBC on the right of News Corp to rule the world (you can read about it at the BBC in Murdoch attack on 'dominant BBC) but fear not for the future of Vivian White who prepared the Panorama report - perhaps wisely it was announced a few weeks earlier that White's last program was to be the on on piracy and hacking at the heart of the pay TV empire. (John Ware and Vivian White to leave Panorama).

What a tasty farewell gift ...

Meanwhile, BBC news has announced plans to close 140 posts ... as part of its DQF (Delivering Quality First) plan. You have to admire the taste for acronyms.

Meanwhile, there might be a few who think that talk of dirty tricks hasn't spread to the colonies, but all that shows is they haven't read the AFR's story Pay TV piracy hits News:

A secret unit within Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation promoted a wave of high-tech piracy in Australia that damaged Austar, Optus and Foxtel at a time when News was moving to take control of the Australian pay TV industry.

The piracy cost the Australian pay TV companies up to $50 million a year and helped cripple the finances of Austar, which Foxtel is now in the process of acquiring.

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.


It's unlikely you'll be reading any stories about this in the Murdoch-controlled media, i.e. much of the media in Australia - but it would seem that this story has some legs.

And suddenly the AFR is looking like an investigative rag well worth the read, since it's re-entered the conversation by making its paywall selective. Why there's Whistleblower made to change his tune, and Hacker who got stung, and samples of emails, and it's such jolly hockey sticks good fun ...

If we were British, we might say well played Panorama, and well played AFR. Suddenly you're looking and sounding like a serious newspaper with the bit between the teeth. And now let's see what the paranoids locked behind their paywalls bring to the conversation ...

By the end of it, the pond had quite forgot about the smirk ... and that's always a good thing.

(Below: of course itv Digital could simply have collapsed because of its choice of mascot).

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