My attention is drawn to the acronym laden consultation being carried out by Ofcom on behalf of the BBC (pdf).
I’m a big fan of Martin Lewis over at MoneySavingExpert.com. Martin can help you get a bargain on nearly any product or service in the UK. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a Freeview PVR for sometime and turn to Martin for advice. If I read the BBC’s proposals right, it would mean that the impressive looking PVRs listed on Martin’s site, along with millions of other devices will become obsolete.
The proposals show that the BBC wants to encrypt the service information (SI) data of the DVB stream. They will only hand out the decryption keys to trusted set top box manufacturers that will implement copy protection restrictions with a license agreement. They will not encrypt the video and audio stream, but without the service information data it will be difficult to get access to it (though not impossible, as far as I understand the technical aspects). So, if you’re a hard core pirate, you’ll still be able to continue doing what you do but if you just want to watch the latest Eastenders, you’ll have to purchase new stuff.
So, in attempt to satisfy the fears of powerful rightsholders, the BBC will prohibit millions of people from programming their existing set top boxes. If implemented this will make it difficult to view or record HDTV broadcasts with free software. Where’s the consumer interest in that settlement?
I may be reading the consultation the wrong way as it is very difficult for the layman to understand. If I am, I’d be happy to put the Beeb’s side of the argument. I’m certainly going to contact Ofcom on Monday to see if they are prepared to outline the implications for consumers. I’m also going to contact DCMS ministers to see if they are aware of the matter.
Once again, your views would be welcome in the comments section.
UPDATE: I’m kicking myself as I meant to add a clarification to this post a few days back. The Beeb got in touch after reading this post and told me that what they are “proposing is copy protection, which would be introduced only into brand new receivers for Freeview HD, which will be coming into stores early next year.” They go on to say that content holders expect a degree of content management on the Freeview HD platform and therefore have proposed a form of copy protection, though specifically avoiding encryption to ensure that the public service content remains free to air. Make of that what you will.
I’m grateful to the BBC for their courtesy in responding to this story. There is an erudite debate taking place on the merits of their proposal in the comments section below.
I remain concerned that the consultation has been rushed through. I suspect that Ofcom would be as well. As the government has found in the past, failure to properly consult often ends in judicial review.