News Corp.’s Australian arm could be facing a new scandal—and this time, it has nothing to do with phone hacking.
Australian police have been investigating a former politician’s allegations that an executive from News Corp. subsidiary News Limited attempted to bribe him in return for his vote against a government measure that could hurt the company.
In a nine-page statement to police, published earlier today by The Age, owned by a News Limited rival, former senator Bill O’Chee claimed that in 1998, an unnamed News Limited executive attempted to persuade him to vote against government legislation related to the creation of digital TV, the failure of which would benefit News Limited.
O’Chee reportedly told police that in return for his vote, the News Limited executive promised him a “special relationship” with the company as well as “editorial support from News Corp's newspapers, not only with respect to the … legislation but for ‘any other issues’ too.”
But when O’Chee decided to vote for the legislation, he claimed, “it became almost impossible for me to get anything published in the Queensland newspapers which News Corp. controlled, even though I had been able to do so before the lunch meeting.”
In response to the allegations, News Limited released a statement categorically denying O’Chee’s claims, adding that “the executive referred to in today's report, Malcolm Colless, has confirmed that no improper conversation took place during the 1998 lunch with former Nationals senator, Mr O'Chee.” Neither News Limited nor Colless has been contacted by police, the company said.
The 13-year-old allegations were reportedly referred to the police after O'Chee discussed the events with a fellow lawmaker at an Australian airport.