Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Police probe News Corp 'vote deal'

News Corp is being investigated by Australian police over claims by a former senator

Australian police are investigating claims by a former senator that a News Corp executive offered him favourable newspaper coverage and "a special relationship" in return for voting against government legislation.

Bill O'Chee recently made the allegations in a nine-page statement to police and they were published by Fairfax Media newspapers, rivals of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in Australia.

The newspapers reported that an unnamed executive of News Corp's Australian subsidiary, News Ltd, asked Mr O'Chee during a lunch on June 13 1998, to vote against his conservative government's legislation on the creation of digital TV in Australia. News Corp stood to profit from the legislation failing.

Australian Federal Police said that Mr O'Chee's allegations had been under investigation since November 4.

"As this matter is ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment any further," a statement said.

Offering a senator a bribe or inducement to influence a vote is an offence punishable by up to six months in prison.

Mr O'Chee did not return a call for comment and a News Ltd spokesman did not immediately respond to a request.

The allegations are embarrassing for News Corp, whose ownership of 70% of Australia's newspapers has raised criticisms from within the government that Mr Murdoch's empire has too much control over Australian media.

The government has opened an inquiry into potentially increasing newspaper regulation in Australia after News Corp closed its top-selling British tabloid the News of the World in July, over illegal phone hacking allegations.

Mr O'Chee had been discussing that inquiry with an unnamed Australian MP at an Australian airport recently when he mentioned his allegations against the executive, Fairfax media reported. The claims were then referred to police.

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