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back to article Free Software Foundation plans protests at 'corrupt' BBC

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is planning protests at key BBC sites because it believes the national broadcaster's management has been corrupted by Microsoft. Protests will be mounted outside Television Centre in London and outside the corporation's Manchester offices on Tuesday, 14 August. The activists' move has been …

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Corrupt?

I dunno about corrupt, but I certainly think that the BBC has lost its way in a major fashion.

I spent an interesting few weeks last year working at the Beeb on a short term contract and happened to share an office with some of the guys who were working on the iPlayer, as well as other 'new meedja' projects, and it was a crying shame to see such obviously talented people hobbled by endless layers of management (of varying degrees of ineptitude) and suffocating bureaucracy. The iPlayer has had a troubled gestation (well documented elsewhere) and this whole thing reeks of a rush job dictated from on high.

It was even more of a shame to see such an organisation in grave danger of disappearing up its own fundament, a process which seems to have accelerated since the departure of Greg Dyke and co. Whilst protesting against Redmond's apparent subjugation of dear old Auntie may have some effect, I fear that much more fundamental changes are required - like finally biting the bullet, abolishing the TV license and going commercial[*]

[*] - not that it bothers me overmuch. My TV died last year and never got replaced, and the TV tuner for my laptop currently resides on eBay. TV? You can keep it ... I'll settle for Radio 4.

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Welcome to the wonderful world of DRM

There are many platform neutral methods to move the data. This Microsoft deal is a problem because of DRM. The Beeb wants a supported off the shelf DRM that works on most PCs. To them this is a no brainer. But what about the future? In six months time the iPhone will be released in Europe and that (plus other similar products from other phone companies) will be a major platform for downloaded TV. How are the BBC going to support those platforms having got into bed with Microsoft?

Of course, DRM is only a problem for honest people. It is trivially worked around. If you can see and/or hear it, the DRM is already broken and all that remains is security through obscurity.

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Anonymous Coward

What about Ch4 and ITV

Will they protest there as well please - I cannot watch their offerings on my Mac - it has to be Windows.....

And to the first poster, as someone who has been with the BBC for many years, I do not undertand why it did not get its R+D department (who know a fair bit about compression technologies and have some clever ideas of their own) to develop a (better) platform independent solution - it could have licensed this to others.

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iplayer

I'm surprised that no-one has come up with a ""community iPlayer", that captures digital TV to mpeg files in a big cache and allows you to fetch programs that you have missed from other peoples caches, via bitorrent.

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Prediction

I'm sure this will be the FSF's most succesful protest action yet.

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DRM just proves "care taken"

I don't think it matters whether DRM is cracked or not, the BBC simply have to show that they took all reasonable precautions to protect the copyrights of the media they broadcast. If the DRM is cracked in those files then its the technology (i.e. Microsoft) that are liable, not the Beeb.

The BBC say that DRM is necessary to protect their rights, and open source software by definition does not support DRM, so what's the big problem here?

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OHMSAIS

If amfM HyperRadioProActivity offered a Crack Hack of DRM, IT would allow for an In-House Customisation of Content for the BBC MicroManagement of the Microsoft Macro.for reSupply to Microsoft as BetaTested Viable Global BroadBandCast Material for Indigenous CopyLeft Template Use.M

An Universal Public Service Operating System 42 XPort via ITs XXXXPorts thus to give always at least three Deeper and ever more XXXXPansive Levels in ITs Layers of HyperVisor Wizard Controls.

AI Seventh Heaven? On Her Majesties Special Artificial IntelAIgents Service in Advanced Alien Concepts for Virgin Space Systems...Perfectly Forming Societies to Build Future InfraStructures via Shared and Pooled Intelligence for NeuReal Information as Fact.

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Anonymous Coward

It's not just the DRM

Microsoft's dominates not just the iPlayer but the whole of the corporation's IT strategy. Every desktop in the beeb has full Microsoft Office on top of the operating system, most only ever use the programmes once in while to flog tickets on the group mailing list or to make powerpoints once in a blue moon on 'Expanding the BBCs Reach' or 'Making More Posh Programmes For The Culture Free Oiks.'

It's a crying shame - all that license fee money being frittered away on Microsoft - and then the's the fact that most people working on the standard desktop would rather have their standard BBC screensaver bouncing around when they're away than turn to flaming thing off over night. Money. Pissed. Away. What a waste.

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Possible

Now the FSF are in on the act too; it's about time too. The BBC has been getting away with exactly the same levels of IT ineptitude as the government;

What the hell are we going to do with all the technophobics in the UK, we seem to have a disproportionate number of tech sell outs too; short term thinkers with their brains up their neither regions.

We're going to be the worst place for advancing computer sciences... no wait we're already that, now we're just fighting to stop ourselves looking like complete idiots on the world stage. It's getting quite tiresome really.

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The Emperor's new Walkman (tm)

"If you can see and/or hear it, the DRM is already broken and all that remains is security through obscurity." - g lane

That statement is absolutely true; so why are people who don't understand that, managing the project? Because they can pretend it works long enough to get paid, get bonuses and move on leaving someone else to re-invent the ruins and get their bonus in turn.

Is there anybody who seriously believes the DRM inspiring objectives can be attained? (As opposed to those who merely professionally claim such)

Sam

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Free Software Foundation

So let me get this right, an American corporation (FSF) is demanding the BBC releases its protected content because it believes an American corporation (MS) is telling the BBC what to do?

I pay my licence fee every year so having some idiots from Boston threatening to throw their tea into the harbour unless the BBC starts giving away its content without DRM so people in any country with Linux can watch it, is nothing short of pathetic.

I'm all for a Linux version of the iPlayer when its viable and when DRM can be applied to the programmes so that people who are not supposed to watch it (i.e. people who are not in the UK) are unable to watch it.

The FSF demands a Linux player with the source code available, with the ability for them to modify the source code in any way they wish and that the code (modified) can be transfered anywhere.

A nice closed source iPlayer with restrictive DRM for Linux is the only option that is acceptable, the BBC has a duty to protect its content, it also has a duty to employ the best people for the job and if that means hiring people from Microsoft then thats what they have to do. FSF can go take a flying.....

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Corrupt? Strong word, but... Perhaps.

History tells us that this is one major way in which Microsoft works - make it easy for people to fall into your traps and end up delivering software dependent on your proprietary systems. Maybe the BBC have just been naive, but then again - if they've got a big ex-MS guy in there, maybe it's deliberate?

One thing I didn't know is that this system is IE-based. There's absolutely no need for that, even if they do use WM DRM. Just build your own front end. So one begins to suspect that they *want* to tie themselves to Microsoft...

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Platform Monogamy

I fear I may be missing the point here, but to watch BBC Terrestrial Broadcasts I have to purchase a 625-Line PAL receiver. I can't watch on a US-made NTSC set, I can't watch on a French SECAM set, I certainly can't watch on my fridge or my vacuum cleaner. Yet no one finds this odd.

To view the iPlayer BETA, I have to own (or buy) a specific computing platform.

What's changed??

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What about Ch4 and ITV

"I do not undertand why it did not get its R+D department (who know a fair bit about compression technologies and have some clever ideas of their own) to develop a (better) platform independent solution - it could have licensed this to others."

Ermmm ... the Schrodinger project, with particular reference to the Dirac video codec? Lots and lots of potential there, although my understanding at the time I was at White City was that the whole thing was pretty much dead in the water and no significant development was occurring (BICBW)

Then again, I don't know of *any* company which is capable of seeing the bigger picture where R&D is concerned - if there isn't instant money to be made, the project gets canned or screwed to the point where they *can* get some ROI even if it means shipping a substandard product. I've had to put up with this sort of crap in more than one of my previous jobs.

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here too

http://defectivebydesign.org/blog/BBCcorrupted

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DVB

Andrew wrote: "I fear I may be missing the point here, but to watch BBC Terrestrial Broadcasts I have to purchase a 625-Line PAL receiver. I can't watch on a US-made NTSC set, I can't watch on a French SECAM set, I certainly can't watch on my fridge or my vacuum cleaner. Yet no one finds this odd."

Somebody's stuck in the 80s. There has been receiver equipment capable of handling various analogue TV formats commonly available for several years.

All of the BBCs channels can be had in fully DRM-free standard cross-platform MPEG video either from a normal TV aerial or from a satellite dish in most of Europe (though a large dish might be needed in far-flung areas). I don't know exactly what content the BBC plans to make available on iPlayer, but for the likes of Eastenders and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps surely the BBC is the rights holder? Could be that they're worried about stepping on BBC America's feet.

Jess writes "I'm surprised that no-one has come up with a ""community iPlayer", that captures digital TV to mpeg files in a big cache and allows you to fetch programs that you have missed from other peoples caches, via bitorrent."

They have, it's called uknova.com.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Platform Monogamy

I know this has been rehearsed a thousand times elsewhere but...

> to watch BBC Terrestrial Broadcasts I have to purchase a 625-Line PAL receiver

yes, that's right, anybody can make one to published standards - gives us consumers a choice of who to buy from, a chance of competition amongst suppliers

> I can't watch on a US-made NTSC set,

... nor a British-made one ...

> I can't watch on a French SECAM set,

... nor an Asian one ... but you could watch on a PAL set made by one of a number of Asian manufacturers

> Yet no one finds this odd.

What are you saying here, exactly?

> To view the iPlayer BETA, I have to own (or buy) a specific computing platform

... yes, made by one supplier, legally protected. Dependent upon that supplier's products at a price of their choosing. And using a specification of theirs, it appears. Where is the choice in that? Where is the competition that keeps prices under control for all of us? Not arising from the iPlayer as far as I can see, unless you have a compelling argument otherwise.

> What's changed??

People at last beginning to notice that their licence money is being misused in a big way?

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I certainly can't watch on my fridge

Ahem...

http://www.comet.co.uk/cometbrowse/product.do?sku=336084

:-)

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Much ado ! The iplayer is in TRIAL !!!!

You've got to walk before you can run. The iplayer is in trial! I'd love to join the trial but I'm running Vista on my desktop and laptop and the iplayer is for XP only which makes it a very obvious trial. Surely if Microsoft were "running programming at the BBC" they'd be making us all upgrade to Vista.

When the iplayer is launched and if it is a success then by all means demand that it is put on other viable platforms (Vista, Firefox, etc.) but lets not hold up progress because some small percentage of geeky conspiracy theorists expect a team of programmers to know Linux.

I'm happy enough to beat Microsoft with a stick when they deserve it (which they often do) and I don't like the way Labour licks up to them so much but there's no need to barrel scrape with this one.

I once worked as a tester for Microsoft. If I ever get a job at the BBC will I too be accused of corrupting it? Maybe I'm pre-programmed to do Bill Gates bidding at some point! Lets just have an injection of common sense please. Who wants more license fee money spent rewriting iplayer to work on their Spectrum?

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"I am sorry, Lin-what?"

People who see these protests aren't going to know what the heck these people are protesting about - and the second someone begins a sentence "It is an operating syst-...." the will zone out.

Why do these people see themselves as entitled to this service on their operating system of choice?

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Missing the point

Andrew wrote: "I fear I may be missing the point here, but to watch BBC Terrestrial Broadcasts I have to purchase a 625-Line PAL receiver. I can't watch on a US-made NTSC set, I can't watch on a French SECAM set, I certainly can't watch on my fridge or my vacuum cleaner. Yet no one finds this odd."

Last time I lived in the UK I wasn't required to pay a TV licence fee for my vacuum cleaner or fridge, and I expect you could wriggle out of paying one for a SECAM or NTSC set since it can't receive the BBC signals anyway.

Unless of course they changed that law since 2005...

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Guilty BBC?

It's not the player codec that's the issue, it's the DRM. The BBC was pushed by content rights holders to apply DRM to downloads, and the most widely available solution is (unfortunately) Microsoft's. The BBC aren't the only ones: BSkyB use in on their broadband service too (where it was hacked pretty quickly anyway). If it were up to the BBC, I'm sure they'd make it all available unencrypted, but for all those who make the programs, get money for repeat fees, DVDs, etc that's obviously not going to be commercially unacceptable.

There's going to be another revolution akin to the MP3/downloading/bittorrent decimation of the music industry's traditional business models soon based on this stuff, so they need to think of other ways of making money from it. Until then, they're going keep on insisting on DRM wellies while the floodwaters rise around them.

At least the BBC Trust has insisted on a commitment to making a platform-neutral solution available "in a reasonable timeframe". The problem is, who makes a DRM solution that is going to be politically acceptable to everyone? Real? Apple? Are the clever boffins at the BBC interested in developing and policing a BBC own-brand DRM system? Is *any* DRM going to be acceptable to some people?

If the BBC is guilty of anything, it's really only in underestimating the firestorm announcing an MS-only solution, even for a trial period, was likely to cause. And being dumb enough to believe the MS DRM is going to keep their content safe - MS can't even keep their own software from being ripped off. Why would you trust your crown jewels to such a natural target?

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Anonymous Coward

Huggers

I am reminded of all the protests back when Doctor Who was taken off the air, in the days of Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford. I imagine these protests will have just as much effect.

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Anonymous Coward

"No taxation without iPlayer representation" ?

Hate to point it out but several points being missed here - especially by David Webb on this page, but also by FSF and others.

1) The BBC has a duty of care to license-fee payers - all of them, not just those who have chosen to use Windows XP and Internet Explorer. Imagine the brouhaha if only Sony televisions could receive BBC1, only Samsung panels could show BBC 3 content (ok, so very few would notice that .. )

2) The point about keeping content within the licence-fee domain is a valid one, Mr Webb, but not in the way you made it: within the license-fee paying community there is an obvious, clear and undeniable requirement to have access to BBC content made equally available to all license paying households. Those who do not pay the license fee could be offered a purchasing option per programme / series / month (whatever .. ) but those within that community should ALL be able to access ALL content that anyone else within that community can access. It is not for the BBC to choose what operating system or what browser the UK population should use because of market forces - to which it is exemplt, otherwise one cannot justify the license fee. If a license fee rebate were available for those who do not fall within a very prescriptive technical specification.

3) If the BBC forces users to accept Windows XP and Internet Explorer to view iPlayer, then I hope their helpdesk is up to supporting the entire UK, free of charge, when IE breaks other things on the PCs because of the updates required to install iPlayer. (a) It breaks LOTS of things - several video playback formats, all perfectly legal, now complain about Windows Media Player versions; lots of websites no longer appear properly as Internet Explorer can't understand W3C standards. (b) If the BBC insists on IE and WinXP and WMP upgrades in order to view taxpayer funded content then there is a clear and undeniable moral obligation on them to either (i) fix ALL of the problems that this combination causes for ANYONE who is a license payer, or (ii) stop with the BS about it only working on those platforms.

4) Mr. Toner;s comments about being in testing and so on are all very well, but I do not recall the prime time news coverage of the launch mentioning "this is a beta product and will probably break more than it fixes". It does, by the way; four separate security products moaned like whatever at the installation. One said spyware, one said virus, other two said "suspicious". That is just downright careless - both lazy testing and bad project management by the commercial team looking after iPlayer; that team should've ensured before launching even a beta that it did not have characteristics that would lead it to be classified as a threat.

5) Mr Toner again - thankyou for adding to the anti-freedom ( and I mean that in an Amnesty sense, not an FSF one) suspicion that is so easily levelled at big business (not just Microsoft, but why keep being such an easy target!). "few geeky conspiracy theorists" is a perfect example of slander the opponent when not having a logical response to the argument. This is not about Linux vs Mac vs Windows vs Solaris vs BSD vs whatever, it is about those who pay for programmes being able to watch them, rather than middle management at the BBC choosing what segment of their audience should watch them. To continue the Sony / Samsung analogy and take it to where you have taken it: those who are ABC1C2 can watch all of the channels but those who are C2DE can't get BBC4 "because we don't support your environment".

6) To Mr Edwards:

Get a grip. Do you only pay road tax if you drive a Ford or a Vauxhall, no - everyone pays. So what if motorways were declared to be only open to Fords and Vauxhalls? That's what is happening here; this is not a debate about operating systems - which would be a perfectly valid debate and does not benefit from abusive comments - but a debate about the use of taxpayer's money and about the correct behaviour of a publicly funded, tax-levying organisation that has decided - WITHOUT public debate of any note - to choose to close it's motorways to anyone who doesn't drive a Ford or Vauxhall.

NB: To Ford, Vauxhall and to anyone who drives either they were the first examples that came to mind, sorry!

PS £10 says iPlayer's DRM will not last the summer. Then again, neither will the sunshine probably .....

PPS if it does, and it is proved a success and i still can't watch stuff without my security software moaning about threats and suspicious programs, can I have my license fee back please.

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To Steve and Andrew

> http://www.comet.co.uk/cometbrowse/product.do?sku=336084

ahh! But that's not HIS FRIDGE :-P

And Andrew, how would you like it if the BBC suddently announced that their TV signals would ONLY be viewable on sets made by COMANY-X - would that be ok with you, even though you have a BETTER TV made by COMPANY-Y ?

I suppose if you only ever bought TV's by "COMPANY-X" anyway, and you lived in a "COMPANY-X" world, your ignorance and selfishness would probably make you have the same view as you do in your post regarding the operating system

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@Andrew

The reasons for the different analogue picture formats are mainly technical.

You watch on a 625 line in the UK, because the original time base was kept in step by the AC signal, 50hz. The USA has a different frequency (60hz), which means the time base runs faster. There is a limit to the amount of picture information you can get across on the carrier signal, so as the USA time base runs faster, you can't send as much information, so less lines.

These days with accurate oscillators, you could pick any time base you like, but of course it has to be compatible with all the existing gear, unless you really bite the bullet and invent a new format like HD.

NTSC was the first colour encoding system the engineers came up with, but as anyone that has ever seen the results, it tends to drift about a bit (okay, these days it's better, but that's thanks to a hell of a lot of clever modern electronic fixing the inherent problems), NTSC was even nicknamed Never Twice Same Colour! The UK engineers stuck as the R&D, convinced there must be a better way, where the colours would be more stable. PAL was the result. Hence an NTSC signal on a PAL TV produces a picture, but the set cannot decode the colour information, and vice versa.

There was no anti-competitive reason for it at all.

SECAM, well that's just the French isn't it. They wanted to protect their TV manuafacturing industry, so invented their own format. Incidently a lot of eastern block countries used SECAM too, because that way the only "free" world country they would be able to sneak a look at would be France, they certainly didn't want Eastern German residents seeing life on the other side of the wall.

So now we just have to decide exactly which side of the wall the BBC are putting us on!

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well

well to be honest I don't think they should be offering a free online tv service beyond the news world service type stuff. Everything else should be a paid service wrapped in whatever the hell they like.

As to anon, you can only have your license fee back if you don't have a tv plugged in or a tv tuner. Or a radio... although the price is lower for a radio.

Problem with them giving away "free" content online is that everyone who now owns a computer technically has to pay a tv license. So infact - if you don't want a tv (lets face it there's ---- all ever on) and you own a pc that is windows you'll have to pay for a tv license (technically) (just like if you own a tv but never watch the beeb) so the onlyway to not have to get a tv license is to A: not have an internet connection or b: have a pc that iplayer wont work on...

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How many times...

It's nothing to do with platforms and the neutrality thereof: it's *everything* to do with the rights-holder's agreements. The rights-holders say 'it's got to be unplayable after 28 days or you don't get it'. End of story; if the BBC can't demonstrate that they've tried to manage that - and much as you might hate it, absent two-part authentification, DRM is the only practical way to do it at present - then they simply will not have the right to rebroadcast in this way.

I am led to believe that the original agreements which legalised VCR recordings off air also had this 28 day limitation, as an honour burden on the user. I'd love to see a reference to indicate whether this is in fact true.

Neil

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Anonymous Coward

The FSF can FO...

Firstly the FSF has no credibility getting involved with this. They're an American outfit that doesn't pay a single penny towards the license fee. When it comes to allegations of corruption, the FSF really needs to have a look in their own backyard to a media landscape absolutely dominated by Rupert Murdoch, Time-Warner and ClearChannel all pumping out the same neo-conservative shite 24 hours a day. At the end of the day all these on-demand things are a pile shit so does anyone really give a fuck? Aren't there six billion other things more interesting than being stuck in front of the tube?

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Yea right

As usual the open source brigade don't seem to have anything else better to do

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Rob
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Lot of fuss about nothing

It's a trial, so I think protesting now is just going to make them look stupid, better to do it once the software has gone gold surely?

I'm also thinking that some sort of paranoid fever has griped some people, the BBC have already annouced that whilst trialling it was going for XP and IE combatibility and would develop for later OS's afterwards, I think that's something akin to a "roll-out".

As much as I like to see a fair market with open source well and truely in there somewhere, I think the FSF don't do themselves any favours sometimes, by all means fight the good fight to be heard and make a difference, but pick your fights.

I'm a license payer and I would like to know that my fee is not paying for content non fee payers can download from other countries. If/when the BBC says it's not going to touch the other platforms then I will quite happily join the protest.

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2 points

1) The BBC did not want to put DRM on there programs (As I understand) but they were forced to but commercial companies.

2) The BBC has produces a test system, that works on the most popular combination of OS and Browser. So? What should they have done? It’s a TEST. Typical FSF fanbois, who need to grow up a bit, and accept that the best way to test somthing is minimise conflicts due to browser/OS combinations, work the bugs out of what they have and then worry about Browse/OS combinations later. Its what you do with any other web software (and exactly the combination I would start with)

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SECAM vs PAL

From experience the only difference between SECAM and PAL is how the colours were encoded (or some such). You can quite easily watch SECAM signals on a PAL TV or vice versa it'll just be in B&W. I've tried this with videos bought in France.

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Anonymous Coward

re: What about Ch4 and ITV

I dont think Ch4, ITV et al are an issue, they are commerical TV stations and as such only really have to answer to the advertisers/share holders. Sad as it is.

I dont think the FSF has any "right" here, yes the iPlayer should be cross platform, but this is only a trail, and as such, from a certain point of view (perhaps that of an ex-MS tester, god a tester and worked for MS poor bloke), having the beta lunched at a large market segment gives you more people finding bugs.

it IS possible to have DRM on Linux/Unix/BSD, its just software at the end of the day.

Isint OS X some form of linux/FreeBSD and it certainly has DRM capabilities.

It would be nice to see the BBC boffins come up with something.

I am sure the BBC will make the iPlayer cross platform, what would be really interesting is if they were able to use Java, I say this only because I think the BBC would be quite capbable of sorting out Java's media framework ;)

I also think that Apples QuickTime file format is probably one of the better ones to use as your media container.

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iPlayer has enough REAL problems...

...without being distracted by a silly protest over nothing. Face it, Linux on the desktop account for 0.7% of the market (that's what my weblogs tell me) - what sane businessperson would ever focus on that platform as anything other than a tiny niche? PLEASE don't bother quoting stats back me, its boring enough just typing them in the first place.

For me the real problem with iPlayer is Kontiki, and in particular the simply awful manner in which iPlayer implements it. When I signed up for the beta it was never made clear that what I was doing was installing a P2P system, and more to the point one that works invisibly and never tells you what it is doing. The P2P function keeps on working even when iPlayer is exited, and also when the system tray icon is exited. The only way to shut it off appears to be to track down the Kservice process and manually shut it down. From a consumer point of view that is just crap and potentially very expensive if you are on a capped contract.

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The 'duty of care' line of argument will not succeed

Surely all of the people who cite the BBC's 'duty of care' to ensure that all license fee payers can access their content are missing the point (see for ex: "No taxation without iPlayer representation" ?).

The BBC has *already* met that duty of care, they broadcast (as everybody knows) television over the air such that anyone with a set-top box (for digital) or standard analogue receiver (until 2010, or whenever it is) can receive it. There, duty of care accommodated. The point that this "is about those who pay for programmes being able to watch them" is all well and good, but it seems to forget that, actually, as long as they have a TV and are within range of a broadcasting point, they already can! Harping on about license fee reductions is irrelevant so long as you can obtain the content under the terms that the 'duty of care' brigade keep citing (and you can, it's called a TV remember?), those who can't receive BBC TV in this way aren't in the habit of paying a license fee I wouldn't have thought, it's pretty much a self-selecting audience!

The iPlayer service is an additional service above and beyond this requirement to make their content available to all license-fee payers (in fact one could say they exceed this requirement as I don't even have to have a license to watch TV, I just face a fine if I get caught, I wonder what agreement the BBC has to accommodate rights-holders in this respect? Ah but I sense waters becoming muddied, back to my original point...). Now, if they were planning to deliver all of their content through the iPlayer at some point then the detractors above might very well have a point (if the BBC hadn't already committed to a non-windows version of the iPlayer, which it has), but they aren't (at least as far as I am aware).

In the mean time the basic point still stands: this is not the sole or primary mode of delivery for this content therefore it is illegitimate to cite their 'duty of care' as grounds for attack. If it were the only means of attaining such content then you might have a point, but as things stand this is not the only way to view this content. We pay our license fee and are then legitimately allowed to view and decode (via our clever TV boxes) the data transmitted over the air. Requirement to make content accessible to all license fee payers met. Unless and until the iPlayer becomes a way of accessing content not distributed in other more widely accessible forms this line of argument will always fail.

Of course now the BBC will probably devalue my comment by advertising 'exclusive content for iPlayer viewers' within the next 10 seconds, but hey ho, I gave it a shot.

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Dirac

In response to: "why it did not get its R+D department (who know a fair bit about compression technologies and have some clever ideas of their own) to develop a (better) platform independent solution - it could have licensed this to others."

Look up Dirac, it is an open source codec that was started by the BBC, possibly for Iplayer.

I think the reason it is not currently being used is that it is not yet mature.

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Anonymous Coward

iPlayer

I hate the BBC becasue of the licence fee, mainly becasue its often call a TV licence. Is it hell! even people who only watch SKY have to pay the BBC to make content and then they call it a TV Licence?? It should be called a BBC subsription and if people don't pay and steal the BBC channels then thats the BBC's problem and they need to find a way to limit their broadcasting. Not to mention the fact that the TV licence actaully pays for radio / iplayer or any other venture BBC takes a fancy too!

Anyway rant about unfair BBC tax, on people who dont want it over (well sort of).

The BBC are a far more monopolistic company than microsoft so why are all the linux heads getting there bermuda shorts in a twist about Bill gates having a say on the iPlayer (which i highly doubt is that case anyway). Can you imagine if microsoft had a Computer licence and you had to pay it even if you used linux well thats what the TV licence is!

The iPlayer sounds like a good idea, using bittorent de-centralised tracking etc.. to achive a broadcast over the internet. But why DRM?? ahhhh! Just make a login which requires a BBC Tax disk number i mean TV licence number. Then all the Americans can't get in! which in my optionion is unlikely in a country where there are far more channels and shows come out sooner anyway. If an american cracks it WOW they can get a download of Lost series 1 which they saw years ago! ahhh call the police they will all be doing it!

Down with BBC! down with DRM! keep the internet free but not everyone hates windows! some people actually like many different OS!

Anyone who is capibile of installing iPlayer could just use a TV torrent site.

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Anonymous Coward

film rental

The simple solution for mac users is to get Apple to host all the content in the

Itunes store. Doesn't it already work on a per country basis and support rental

periods for video? Could even use your tv licence id as a pseudo credit card for validation. Then

BBC supports Mac users for free

Apple gets some video content to actually make it worth buying an AppleTV in the UK..

I get all my TV in Frontrow :)

Who wants to watch tv in some small browser window or media player anyway?

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Anonymous Coward

Questions of Integrity

Whilst I am pleased the FSF consider this matter important I'm not sure whether their involvement here is helpful. As another reader has stated they are not a British organisation and the BBC have no duty towards them. Their appearance at a debate can also serve to polarise it, causing people who would otherwise be open to discussion to choose sides based on their opinions of the OSS community.

My largest customer takes the integrity of their organisation very seriously. They have an integrity policy that obliges staff and contractors to not engage in any behaviour or dealings in their work or personal lives that when viewed alongside their relationship with the company might cause an onlooker to question the propriety of the company.

As a wise man once said, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck." This certainly looks like a duck.

Please will El-Reg approach the BBC and ask the following questions?

* Are the iPlayer and new media projects at the BBC funded through the License Fee, via commercial revenue raised by the BBC's commercial activities or via some other route including their ralationship with Siemens?

* How much Licence Fee payers' money has been spent on these deals and how much more spending is anticipated over the lifetime of the project?

* Were the decisions to enter into the BBC/MS MOU and iPlayer deal taken before or after the decision to employ Erik Huggers and by how long?

* Did MS encourage Erik Huggers to take his position at the BBC or encourage the BBC to employ him?

* To what extent did Mr.Huggers influence these decisions?

* Does Mr.Huggers directly or indirectly (for example via trust, family or fund ownership) hold any MS stock or other financial interest in MS or affilliated companies from which benefit could have been gained as a result of these dealings between the BBC and MS?

* If such interests are held will the BBC please disclose them in the public interest?

* What oversight is or has been in place to ensure the dealings in relation to this matter were conducted with the integrity that the public has a right to expect from the BBC?

* Has the BBC or any employee or contractor of the BBC with involvement in this project received any hospitality, gifts or concessions from MS? If so please disclose the extent of these.

I have posted this anonymously because I have a potential commercial relationship with the BBC and do not wish to prejudice it.

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Re: Company X

"... how would you like it if the BBC suddently announced that their TV signals would ONLY be viewable on sets made by COMANY-X - would that be ok with you, even though you have a BETTER TV made by COMPANY-Y ?"

Analogies are fun. How about...

... the BBC says it's going to start broadcasting in Medium Definition in addition to, not instead of, all the other ways it broadcasts. Why? Who knows. But they want to do it, preferably slowly and over budget. Only Company X currently makes the sort of MD-compatible TVs that will work with the type of MDTV that the BBC will broadcast. People who use Company Y's products - a much smaller number than those who use Company X's products - demand that broadcasting not be started until they make some too, but also say that they don't want to, and that broadcasting in MDTV is for stupidheads and besides they can watch HDTV whenever they want so why broadcast in MDTV at all and besides the BBC sucks and who wants to watch their programmes anyway and it should be privatised. Meanwhile, Company Z's users, who are also going to be losing out until Company Z gets its act together, are too busy being smug about their new toys to complain loudly which is surprising as Company Z's users are also often, in their way, self-righteous prigs.

Yep. That seems more accurate.

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Anonymous Coward

Which TV?

As a proportion of the population, Linux users are a far smaller group than those people without any means of using the iPlayer; perhaps people should be protesting about those who have no access to the internet at all, since that's less of a minority group. Those people are still paying their license fee, after all, and getting even less of a return for their money that those with Linux.

Also, if you're using Linux, haven't you bought into the FSF idealogy anyway? If so, stop complaining and write your own iPlayer-for-Linux emulator!

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Bronze badge

Re: How many times...

"I am led to believe that the original agreements which legalised VCR recordings off air also had this 28 day limitation, as an honour burden on the user. I'd love to see a reference to indicate whether this is in fact true."

Neil Barnes, not sure what you mean there, please explain. I have recordings as far back as over 20 years ago and they still work!

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I don't understand the anology

If the BBC suddenly said "you now need a SONY telly to watch the Mitchell Brothers rutting like shaven haired stags, or Anne Robinson looking like a partially re-animated corpse which has been buried, dug up, buried, dug up again, had the dirt brushed off and Weakest Link gags tattooed on to the back of her cold, lifeless eyelids", there would be an outcry cos terrerstial TV is in an established format. But TV on demand via the web from the Beeb is NOT an established service.

It's in BETA. Surely it's better to start with something that most people use. I.E IE and XP, rather than Linux which is only used by two dozen bitter "Doctor Who" fans moaning on alt.real.ale.isn't.as.good.as.it.used.to.be

DRM is a requirement. Now, you can moan about it all you like, say it's unfair etc, that you can get around it, and that it's contrary to the "spirit" of the Beeb, but DRM is a requirement. Can you really see the Beeb saying to the rights holders "Well, we're giving it away free cos Linux doesn't like DRM"? Surely iPlayer with DRM is better than nothing? Its the start point, not the destination.

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Anonymous Coward

Has everybody forgotten

This is only a BETA. If you are developing something to see how viable it is, you target the largest percentage first. This means XP as it is the worlds most common OS. If the trial is successful, you then go on to expand it. I have no doubt that they will develop it further to allow playback on alternative systems but it isn't going to happen overnight. Much as you may not like the fact, Linux and mac account for only a small percentage of users. Also, what if I were to develop an OS platform incompatible with Windows,Linux or OSX. Can I then start shouting at the world and complaining that other companies do not want to have to invest their time and money developing stuff to work with my platform with a limited number of users. A business need to make money. Every format they develop a system for requires licensing so understandably they would prefer to keep that to a minimum. How many formats do you include to be compatible before you say enough is enough. You have to draw the line somewhere otherwise you could end up with hundreds of people developing there own codecs or players and then suing corporations who publish web content for not including their system and being anti competitive. it would be a never ending circle. The more people they pay, the more would see an easy way to make money and also write code and then sue. Pretty soon it would make no commercial sense to publish web content, not even user generated content like youtube as they would also be sued for not supporting this format or that OS.

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What's all the fuss about?

It's cr*p anyway:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbiplayer/F7331805

I installed it, jumped through all the hoops required to get it to run and then it wouldn't download content, no matter what I did - and It uses the "good as malware" kontiki P2P app, which offers no user bandwidth throttling.

I uninstalled it using system restore to wipe out the loathsome kontiki rubbish and won't go near it in it's current form.

Given the many issues with just getting it to run reliably and the growing discontent about it's uncontrollable bandwidth eating, I just can't see it gaining enough user support. And that's before we start talking about cross platform / cross browser support....

What are they doing peering at user level anyway? - They should be paying ISP's to peer their content at the backbone.

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Mo

Lots of people missing the key points, here

Right, first off: DRM is fundamentally incompatible with open-ended technical specifications that can be implemented by anybody (because then anybody could choose to ignore the bit that enforces the restrictions). That's why a DRM-encumbered open source player—or even a closed-source one built to open specifications—won't happen.

However, the arguments in support for DRM in the first place are broken. The DRM has nothing to do with preventing Johnny Foreigner from getting hold of it, and everything to do with preventing the license-payer from doing things lots of license-payers do already without any help from the iPlayer: keeping copies of programmes for later viewing [outside of the “new” restricted features of the iPlayer], or from distributing it to anybody else. The simple fact is that anybody in the UK can do that _right now_, and the poor quality video means Usenet and P2P networks are far more likely to be seeded by DVB-T or satellite captures than from iPlayer videos.

Making sure that content is only accessible (in the first instance) to license-fee payers is trivial. TV Licensing is a subsidiary of the BBC [albeit operated by Capita, last I looked], and so utilising the “subscriber” database for access control is a no-brainer. Making sure people don't redistribute it is a legal matter, not a technical one: in satellite broadcasts, the BBC are actively trying to ensure that their signals *aren't* encrypted.

The bottom line is that the BBC are using the iPlayer to provide a new service, but unlike every other class of service they provide, this one isn't vendor-agnostic. Producing Linux and Mac iPlayers doesn't actually solve this, it just reduces the impact in the short term. One would like to think they'd learned something from the unexpected lack of longevity of the BBC Domesday Project (which is now all but wasted because of lack of foresight). The BBC _has_ to produce the iPlayer to an open standard, and the only way they can do that is by dispensing with the ridiculous DRM. Perhaps if they did that, we'd actually get some decent-quality H.264 video out of them.

On the FSF front: the FSF has a European office. I guarantee that many of its members, and probably quite a number of its donors, are license-fee payers. The FSF is quite clearly representing their (perfectly reasonable) views. Bashing them because of who they are, rather than what they say, is petty and unhelpful to anybody's cause.

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I agree with the comments "The FSF can FO"..

Hit the nail on the head.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The FSF can FO...

> Firstly the FSF has no credibility getting involved with this. They're an American outfit that doesn't pay a single penny towards the license fee.

I'm a dues paying associate member of the FSF. I'm British. I live in Britain. I pay the TV license, and only this morning received a TV license renewal letter.

If you don't want to see the bigger picture, then at least pretend that they are doing this for selfish reasons on behalf of their British members . Blame me if you like.

> At the end of the day all these on-demand things are a pile shit

Hmm. I was watching the on-demand catch-up thing on Virgin cable last night and I found that useful.

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A lot of point-missing going on here...

People seem to think there's some sort of conflict between DRM and open source. That isn't the case - there are open source DRM systems (DReaM, OpenIPMP). The idea that a DRM implementation has to be closed source is ludicrous: this is only the case if the system is horribly flawed - a good, secure DRM system would benefit from being open.

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