Virgin Media may have been target of News of the World phone hacking

It is being reported that PR firm Citigate has revealed that attempts may have been made to "hack" into voicemails of its top executives by the News of the World in 2005 and 2006.

At the time, the company was handling the merger of Virgin Media and cable operator NTL (and Telewest) to create the cable television service which now goes under the name of Virgin TV. It is the biggest pay TV rival to satellite television provider BSkyB, partly owned by News of the World's parent company News Corporation.

UK newspaper The Independent writes that Citigate found out about the alleged hacking attempts from its mobile phone network. "We were told by our mobile provider around 18 months ago that police were investigating allegations that between 2005 and 2006 attempts by unauthorised parties may have been made to hack into three of our company mobile phones," a company spokesperson said.

"We sought further details from the police but there has been no recent follow-up by them."

The revelation adds a new element to the phone hacking scandal, in that it could also have involved commercial espionage in the television sector. However, it's not the first time News Corp has been accused of using illegal practices to target a rival company to Sky: the BBC's Panorama programme reported in March this year that an off-shoot company paid computer hackers to help bring about the demise of On Digital.

Police had also previously informed Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson that his phone was thought to have been hacked by the newspaper.

The results of the Leveson inquiry looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the British press will be presented next month in the form of an extensive report.