Asia-Pacific

Australia plans media inquiry after UK hacking scandal

Rupert Murdoch
Image caption Rupert Murdoch's Australian managers say their operation is unconnected to the UK scandal

Australia's government says it is to set up a wide-ranging investigation into the media, after the News of the World phone hacking scandal in the UK.

It follows calls by the Greens for a sweeping parliamentary inquiry into ethics and media ownership.

News Limited, Rupert Murdoch's Australian firm, controls 70% of the newspaper market and has extensive holdings in TV and the internet.

A top government source said it would not be a "get News Limited" probe.

The source told ABC that the inquiry would instead look at increasing the power of media industry watchdogs and strengthening privacy safeguards.

The review is expected to be announced as soon as Wednesday by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

Mr Conroy was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the terms of reference were under discussion with the Greens, a key partner in Julia Gillard's minority coalition government.

Media 'intimidation'

Mr Murdoch's UK operation News International was forced to close the News of the World tabloid after a string of damaging allegations, and he dropped his bid for satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

Mr Murdoch and his son James also faced a grilling before a UK parliamentary committee in July.

News Limited boss John Hartigan has launched a review of all payments made by the group in the last three years and has said he is willing to co-operate with any inquiry.

He has also denied allegations by governing Labor party members that News Limited has been running a campaign against them, describing his group's journalism as aggressive but fair.

The conservative opposition - which leads Julia Gillards minority coalition government in the opinion polls - has called the media inquiry a "naked attempt to intimidate the media".

Opposition leader Tony Abbott told reporters that it was Labor's "performance which is causing the problems for this government", not media coverage.

News Limited runs more than 20 papers and websites in Australia, including the Australian and the Herald Sun.

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