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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  1. Simon Ward

    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.

  2. g lane

    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.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  4. Jess

    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.

  5. Chris

    Prediction

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

  6. Darren Coleman

    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?

  7. amanfromMars Silver badge

    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

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  8. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  9. Martin Owens

    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.

  10. Sam Liddicott

    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

  11. David Webb

    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.....

  12. Andy

    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...

  13. Andrew

    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??

  14. Simon Ward

    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.

  15. Mike VandeVelde

    here too

    http://defectivebydesign.org/blog/BBCcorrupted

  16. Barney Livingston

    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.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  18. Steve Dulieu

    I certainly can't watch on my fridge

    Ahem...

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

    :-)

  19. Michael Toner

    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?

  20. Jamie Edwards

    "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?

  21. Paul

    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...

  22. Richard Preston

    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?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  25. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    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

  26. Steve Evans

    @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!

  27. Matt

    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...

  28. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    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

  29. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  30. Defiant

    Yea right

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

  31. Rob

    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.

  32. Paul

    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)

  33. Chris

    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.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  35. RMartin

    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.

  36. Rob Mossop

    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.

  37. Stuart Castle

    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.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  41. Chris

    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.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    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!

  43. Test Man

    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!

  44. Charles Calthrop

    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.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  46. MattW

    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.

  47. 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.

  48. William Bronze badge

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

    Hit the nail on the head.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  50. Adrian Jackson

    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.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The FSF can FO

    "At the end of the day all these on-demand things are a pile shit so does anyone really give a fuck?"

    Indeed, point strongly made and taken.

    "Aren't there six billion other things more interesting than being stuck in front of the tube?"

    Certainly, but the statistics on average viewing times is scary - according to Ofcom in 2006 UK TV viewers watched an av. of 3.8 hours a day. That means *on average* half of Joe Public's leisure time is spent watching telly.

    Unfortunately that figure makes it important that we stop a convicted monopolist utterly dominating this medium too. We need all the help we can get to do this, even from our friends in the US.

    BTW not all Americans are neo-con, Christian fundamentalist retards.

  52. Steve Cowles

    Good Grief

    The Beeb don't have to make it run on ANY platform & they'll still be charging you a license fee if you watch television.

    Truth is, they've delivered a proof of concept Beta version that runs on a platform with a wide enough userbase to give it a decent test.

    Sounds pretty sensible to me.

    As for Linux - in the UK, the Beeb broadcast their program's in English. That's because the most common language in the UK, is (surprisingly) English.

    The broadest reach for the least development cost. Sensing a pattern yet?

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rise up!

    Burn your sandals and shave your beards!

    Seriously though, the BBC is doing nothing more than catering to their market profile, iirc, the plan is XP then Mac then Vista. Clearly in order of user base size.

    It would be great if Linux had the same sorts of numbers but it just dosen't. And until it does you'll see this issue again & again with drivers, software packages, services...

  54. David Webb

    Sorta Right

    Anon wrote : "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 .. )"

    The BBC has a duty to provide a service to as many people as is possible, but only upto a certain point. For instance, if Sony were to introduce a new TV set which is SuperHD or w/e which required a special signal, the BBC would be under no obligation to supply the signal for this TV. If however 500,000 people bought this TV set and then required the signal the BBC would be have to start transmitting this signal.

    Yes its a silly analogy because no one in their right mind would bring an unsupported format, but if you apply it to the computer world, and use made up figures, lets say 10 million homes in the UK have DSL and of them 10% will use the iPlayer, thats 1 million computers. How many of them computers will be Windows XP, OSX, Solaris, Vista, Linux etc..? The BBC has an obligation and a duty to provide this service for Windows XP (largest market share), but does it really have a duty to make the iPlayer available for say, Windows Mobile? How about the PSP? Nintendo DS?

    The BBC has to, and can only, do what is best for its shareholders (us) and by spending more than it should do on a minority system it would need to divert funds and shareholders really dont like that kinda thing.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It dosen't even work!

    I've tried to get the dam software to work on three different PC's (all of which had meet the requirements decribed) and it's not worked properly once. I'd rather they spent there time getting this version to work before they start writting a version for Linux and OS-X.

  56. Mo

    Re: Which TV?

    “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!”

    You can't. The specifications for the platform are closed and owned by Microsoft and Kontiki.

    That's the _point_.

  57. Russell Rimmer

    E-petition

    Congratulations! As I write this, the petition has 14473 signatures!

    Which puts it one above: Make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister

    Fuck.

  58. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Pity I'm not in Manchester!

    Otherwise I could give these FSF nerds a good kicking. Talk about picking the wrong issue to fight over...

    We have more and more video on demand from the public networks in Germany which are now partly funded by a licence fee on computers with an internet connection. Some video is already available online live and some is available for video on demand. You've got a choice of RealPlayer and Windows MediaPlayer. Some of the streams work with OpenVLC, some don't. The quality is perfectly acceptable and there is no P2P client because they are co-operating with the network providers who are already running TVoIP. Germany is a hotbed of open source but I haven't noticed many requests to open source all this stuff.

    As for the insinuation that one guy who used to work at Microsoft is now going to borg the BBC - that should be treated with contempt. Yes, the guy might have a MS bias but seeing as >95% of the public do as well that isn't the issue. He'll also have something in his contract about independence from suppliers no doubt but that doesn't make for as good headlines.

  59. Rob

    So far....

    .... we have established that the iPlayer is in a Beta phase, we have also established that other OS's will be provided for after a release of current beta (no time frame mind you for that) and generally speaking it doesn't really matter if someone in another country who doesn't pay the fee is able to access it.

    Which leaves me with the conclusion of, what a bunch of fools the FSF are making themselves look. In what way is this going to help the profile of the FSF and open source in general, I think that perhaps the FSF needs to pay for someone who knows PR, because at the moment they remind me of animal activists in the ineptitude of this whole protest.

    P.S. @FSF, I can fit you in for some PR consultancy if you like, I have space in my calendar for the next 2 weeks.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux and stuff

    Lets put the Linux thing to one side for a minute.

    the BBC have produced a product that :

    a) Requires you to be running XP (although Vista apparently works, sort of)

    b) Requires you to use Internet Explorer (6 or 7 I presume)

    c) Requires you to install and use Windows Media Player 10

    d) Requires you to install a crappy P2P application which you have no easy control over.

    a - is understandable as its the predominant OS in home machines

    b - similar to a but Firefox is used by a significant proportion of people as they dont trust IE due to its inherent security problems

    c - this is a problem. WMP 10 is an nasty bit of work and a lot of people refuse to use it for a variety of reasons (like giving Microsoft rights to decide that any media on your computer is "illegal")

    d - what sort of fuckwit came up with this idea. I can understand that by using p2p the BBC can balance out the load but to use a product that behaves like this is just stupid.

    If c and d were applications developed from the ground up by the BBC, either internally or as an open source project, then moving to other platforms would be easier.

    The DRM is being forced on them by their content providers - of course in the old days before Birt and co outsouced most of the BBC production this wouldn't have been a problem. However there would be nothing to stop the BBC developing a closed source, cross platform DRM module.

    The fact is that the BBC have climbed into bed with Microsoft and handed them the vaseline and we are the ones getting screwed.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE "No taxation without iPlayer representation" ?

    Your "only Fords and Vauxhalls on the motorway" is false.

    Asking people to use Microsoft technologies for the initial iPlayer release is more akin to saying "for the first 12 months, the Motorway will only be available to vehicles with an even number of wheels."

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Mr Martin - iPlayer has enough REAL problems...

    If you'd read the Ts & Cs when you installed the damn thing, you wouldn't be able to claim ignorance of the P2P core of iPlayer.

    RTFM

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Name?

    But it's named the iPlayer - surely that means it's an iApple product?

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No worries - its broken anyway

    "for the first 12 months, the Motorway will only be available to vehicles with an even number of wheels."

    The argument that Mac support (a possibly even Linux) is round the corner is a dead-herring.

    As it stands iPlayer will *never* support anything else other than Windows - it's so tightly bound into the Windows DRM and associated technologies. Quite deliberately.

    But at the end of the day, none of this really matters at the moment. I got invited to join the Beta this morning, downloaded all the crap they asked me to, signed up for all sorts of pointless BBC memberships and ... nothing.

    iPlayer, or at least this beta, is simply broken.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get it in proportion

    Percentage of British homes that can access digital terrestrial TV 73%

    Percentage with broadband (required for iPlayer) 45%

    Percentage of PCs sold with Windows 90%

    And people think the BBC is unfair on people without Windows - there's lots of people paying for BBC services they can't use. Luckily, it seems that iPlayer is being done on the cheap, so they're not wasting too much money of the majority of people who don't have broadband or who would never make use of the service for other reasons.

  66. Daniel Snowden

    Just a few problems with the iPlayer

    First: It seems really sluggish. Granted, I'm using it an a laptop that's a few years old (Celeron 2.6GHz, 512mb RAM, winXP) but 4oD runs fine on the same machine.

    Secondly: After browsing the content, I suddenly remembered how much dross is on the BBC these days (just about the only thing I've found that's worth watching is a rerun of life on Mars) - I tend to use 4oD much more then iPlayer.

    So the players not too bad, just a shame there's very little that's actually worth watching.

  67. Andy

    BBC content already available DRM-free

    ... if you live in France. Most of the big ISPs here also do IPTV, some in HD. Generally you need to plug a SCART cable into the modem/set-top box, but free.fr also offers streaming over ethernet to one or more computers using VLC. That's an open source player. And BBC World and Prime are among the channels you can get this way.

    Seems the DRM requirement is not absolute.

    -A.

  68. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    It's not an OS issue, it's an implementation issue!

    Chris, fair enough, I get your point, but it's not entirely addressing my point.

    Also, I feel alot of the other posters are missing the point.

    Of course, if you are a commercial company, testing a beta, or doing a rollout, you can rightly test to a smaller audience, or any audience of your choice.

    That's not the point. The point is that they are taking the wrong route. Especially as a public company, they should be using an open source DRM solution, if that have to use DRM at all.

    Although not specifically said, I assume some people have flung me into the Linux camp. - I don't use windows, linux, or a mac, but this helps prove my point - this isn't about providing a version for specific systems, and I'd still have the same opinion if they made a version for "my system" using their current methologies (and, I'm not an anti-binary, open-source only zealot - I happily run binary-only programs)

    The point is, as has already been mentioned, there ARE opensource DRM possibilities - in fact, probably more secure than the closed 'security by obscurity' models.

    Simply restricting in the way they are is not the way to go.

    Now, if they were doing this 'the right way', yet still, the only working version was for windows only, I'd not be moaning, I'd patiently wait until an alternative worked on my system - well actually, I'd probably not bother - I don't watch TV anyway!

    But the point is, it's not the current availability, it's the closed way it's being done.

    As for Neil, I understand that there was an attempt to legalise home video off-air recordings for 28 days, because it was (and is) actually illegal to video anything off air at all!

    However, from what I understand, the law was never thrashed out as workable, so it's still technically illegal to do at all.

    The whole DRM thing is stupid, anyway. If anyone wants to record and distribute these things, they'll simply record an off-air broadcast which would be of much better quality (especially a digital recording directly from a digital feed) - if they want to restrict this thing, there is no point trying to do anything more than restrict the service to UK IP addresses via Uk participatring ISPs

    (apologies for incoherency, need coffee)

  69. A J Stiles

    BBC licence fee

    If the BBC encrypted their broadcasts, and a viewing card was required to watch or record BBC TV programmes, then anyone who hadn't paid for a viewing card would be unable to watch any BBC content. This would ensure that nobody could evade paying the TV licence. It would also mean that those who choose to live without a television set would not be subject to a campaign of harassment and poison-pen letters (is it actually an offence to accuse someone of an offence without reasonable suspicion?) Unfortunately, it would also require that every TV receiver (including the ones built into VCRs) would need to be upgraded.

    The move to digital broadcasting imposed the requirement that every TV receiver (including the ones built into VCRs) would need to be upgraded.

    So why wasn't the decision made -- years ago when the switchover to digital was first mooted -- to build in a requirement that set-top boxes be equipped with the wherewithal to deal with scrambled broadcasts and viewing cards?

  70. Dam

    tax payers

    Reckon the non microsoft tax payers get a discount then?

    They can't be forced to pay for a service they can't use, obviously...

  71. Mike Richards

    Not understanding all the sound and fury

    iPlayer is an ADDITIONAL service from the BBC; no one has lost anything from its introduction.

    All of the BBC's output is still being pumped out on analogue and digital in regular and high definition. Any TV sold in the last few decades can receive BBC broadcasting. TiVo can still record BBC programmes, as can Sky+, EyeTV, a DVD recorder or even a VCR.

    Who's suffering?

    I can't get digital in my area and I'd need to borrow Jodrell Bank if I want satellite reception, but I'm not screaming that the BBC is corrupt for providing those options to those who can use the service.

    As a Mac I can't use iPlayer - so what?

  72. Anthony Hulse

    Title

    "Percentage of PCs sold with Windows 90%"

    Yes, but considering over half of all PC sales go into the workplace where Mac and Linux uptake are virtually non-existent, that translates to just over 20% of the UK computer owning public using Windows alternatives in their homes. Adding in that those choosing alternatives to the default choice are more likely to be tech savvy, you can bet your backside that those 20% virtually all have broadband. Which means that using your combination of numbers the BBC is possibly alienating over 40% of its target market by going Windows only.

    As for alternative DRMs, what happened to the one built into Adobe Apollo? Isn't that supposed to have Windows and Mac release imminent with Linux to follow in a couple of months? That would pretty much cover the bases wouldn't it? If the current Windows DRM iPlayer is broken anyway surely moving the entire thing onto Apollo would be a better idea.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    80/20 Rule

    Lets be fair like it or not 80%+ of all potential consumers of BBC products are likely to be running windows based products, therefore why not tlet them have their cake.

    For those of you who knowingly bought niche products, tough you made your choice live with it!

    in the same way most people buy fords or toyotas - do all the Porsche drivers or kit car drivers insist we reengineer the round about and junctions for their own needs?

    finally, i bet the winging Linux Geeks probably moan that so much BBC License payers money is wasted on obscure digital channels and regional radio !! - with the possible exception of MAC users who probably want BBC1 + 2 shut sown and BBC 3+4 adopted as the national media!

    lets get over this "new Labour" obsession with fringe and minorities groups and lets get the balance right, and support the 80% of mainstream users irregardless of what the underlying technology is!

    finally do people not realize the movements still owns a significant oif not majority share of Channel 4 and a minority stake in Ch 5? - I didnt hear any one complain about license payers money (or tax money) wasted on 40D 4WMP?

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    80/20 Rule

    Lets be fair like it or not 80%+ of all potential consumers of BBC products are likely to be running windows based products, therefore why not tlet them have their cake.

    For those of you who knowingly bought niche products, tough you made your choice live with it!

    in the same way most people buy fords or toyotas - do all the Porsche drivers or kit car drivers insist we reengineer the round about and junctions for their own needs?

    finally, i bet the winging Linux Geeks probably moan that so much BBC License payers money is wasted on obscure digital channels and regional radio !! - with the possible exception of MAC users who probably want BBC1 + 2 shut sown and BBC 3+4 adopted as the national media!

    lets get over this "new Labour" obsession with fringe and minorities groups and lets get the balance right, and support the 80% of mainstream users irregardless of what the underlying technology is!

    finally do people not realize the movements still owns a significant oif not majority share of Channel 4 and a minority stake in Ch 5? - I didnt hear any one complain about license payers money (or tax money) wasted on 40D 4WMP?

  75. J

    Tax

    "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!"

    Er... that has already been happening since forever, pay some attention. Well, not in those terms (computer license) for sure, but try and buy a computer without OS (alternative: build your own, which is what I did). Or try to get your money back from Microsoft/retailer if you won't use their stuff (and they are legally obliged to refund you, unless they've bought some new laws since I last read about this). Some people did, major pain in the arse. It's called the Microsoft tax. It's getting a bit better now with some places selling Linux machines and all that. But still, you pay the MS tax most of the time no matter what you decide to do with your computer.

  76. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    to Mike Richards

    > I can't get digital in my area and I'd need to borrow Jodrell Bank if I want satellite reception,

    > but I'm not screaming that the BBC is corrupt for providing those options to those who can

    > use the service.I can't get digital in my area and I'd need to borrow Jodrell Bank if I want

    > satellite reception, but I'm not screaming that the BBC is corrupt for providing those options

    > to those who can use the service.

    Yet, if you were unable to get digital terrestrial or satellite where you live simply because the BBC decided to use a more expensive, less flexible, and less efficient means of making their transmissions that could only reach 80% of the population, instead of a cheaper, better option that could reach these same 80% and an extra 15%, you'd still be a bit miffed, no ? Especially if people then say "well, they are still reaching 80%, so stop complaining"

  77. Tim J

    DRM, iPhone, Windows and Macs

    DRM on the iPlayer is here to stay - sure, no DRM system is unbreakable, but it is not trivial to crack it, plus if it does get cracked DRM can be updated. The BBC won't be releasing their television programs without DRM full stop. If you want DRM free stuff, get it via bittorrent.

    iPlayer on iPhone and other mobiles - get a life, so what people can't watch TV on a tiny mobile screen, who actually wants to. Not an issue.

    iPlayer on a Mac - it'll come soon enough, with DRM. One of the things Mac owners should just accept is that it takes longer for some things to come to Mac.

    iPlayer on Linux - it won't happen. There isn't any reliable DRM available for Linux, so the iPlayer won't be available on Linux.

    iPlayer too restrictive/ picture quality not up to scratch? Get a hard-disk recorder.

    All is sorted.

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DRM, Kontiki etc

    Oh come on - sure Microsoft only DRM is far from ideal - but as the other posters have said: it is the studios who typically demand Microsoft DRM for their content.

    Sky, Channel 4 and the BBC have all copied each other by producing very similar systems all based on Windows DRM and Kontiki. In fact many of the same people were involved on some of these projects.

    Besides I've heard Microsoft DRM is being spun off to a new company and will be made cross-platform. In which case who should give a monkeys which codec it's using so long as it's free?

  79. Peter Mc Aulay

    DRM is not the problem as such...

    The problem is that iPlayer requires Windows and Internet Explorer. Let me repeat that. *Internet Explorer*. The very same security nightmare everyone knowledgeable has been warning everyone off, and a primary infection vector for all kinds of nastiness. At the very least this sends mixed signals, at the worst this makes the BBC look like idiots when the first exploit targets iPlayer and then takes ages to fix.

  80. Jess

    The Issue, (and SECAM)

    The issue isn't that the BBC should provide an iPlayer for other systems, (it doesn't provide TVs does it?)

    It is the fact that it should provide the producers of other systems the means to produce their own BBC content players .

    A firm can produce manufacture its own TV design. The same should be true for Computer operating system manufacturers.

    Not doing this is supporting a monopoly (or Duopoly when a Mac iPlayer arrives, which it will, due to the popularity of the Mac in the media).

    If they are unable to do this then they should stick to normal broadcast, or become a commercial organisation and drop the TV license.

    Perhaps this could be achieved by creating DRM modules (for various processor types or maybe java, depending on whther its providing keys or doing the decription) for incorporation into programs.

    Chris wrote: "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."

    That is the only differnce in the video signal. (Laserdisk players had PAL recorded on them and french players just converted the colour to SECAM)

    The broadcast signal is modulated differently too. (Just as European PAL sound is different from UK sound.) Basically with french signals on a UK (only) TV you get a negative black and white image, which usually won't lock properly and no sound. (Other European signals would just give no sound)

  81. A J Stiles

    Title

    "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!" -- Anonymous Coward

    Great idea! Unfortunately, Microsoft and the BBC are deliberately withholding the information that we would require in order to do this. THAT is where the problem begins and ends.

  82. This post has been deleted by its author

  83. Robert E A Harvey

    Correspondence

    My formal complaint to the BBC about this was answered with an equivocal reply and a link to a document that they claimed required cross-platform compliance within two years.

    The document required no such thing. It merely required the BBC to report to the trust, in two years time, what progress had been made toward cross-platform.

    My point that the solutions should have been cross-platform from the beginning, to avoid the BBC engineers having to do the same thing twice was ignored.

  84. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Freeview has no DRM

    Freeview has no DRM, I easily record programming with a DVB card in glorious broadcast quality. It's good to be able to watch programs again until the DVD is out.

    So given I can do this at much higher quality than internet files, why do they bother putting DRM on the internet files?

    Also, with my DVB card I am required to have a TV licence. With the iPlayer you aren't. So people are freeloading.

  85. El Regular

    squiffy!

    Two points, the BBC is a Corporation, the BBC is chartered by the Royal Sovereign of the time. If the BBC did not adhere to standards of practices that are industry-wide, heads will roll. One such standard is Copywright, Television and Media artists have enjoyed having their work protected from economic parasitisation (piracey and also plaguerism). Allowing unprotected content out to the whole web is against the interests of the copywright holders who may wish to continue making residual profits from their works, which is entirely reasonable.

    I am sure to maximise their market, the BBC will, in fact, develop players for Mac and the opensource community. I personally don't care much as the iplayer is low-resolution, bandwidth dependant, and poor sound quality.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Recording off air

    "The poster, like most people posting on this issue, is talking absolute rubbish (and you can guess the poster doesn't actually know what he is talking about because he says, "was (and is)", instead of just "is". The fact "is" that the copyright act makes time shift recording (that is recording so you can watch something at a different time to that at which it was broadcast) explicitly legal."

    The poster said "was (and is)" because he/she was referring to the situation both before, and after the attempted "28 day law". Therefore, perfectly fine by context.

    The poster also said "as far as i understand" -- I read that to mean he/she wasn't offering it as a fact.

    Anyway, it is illegal to archive a recording, so the question is, how long before a home video recording stops being a 'time-shift' recording, and becomes an 'archived recording' ?

    Thanks for clarifying the situation, though.

    However, selective quoting so you can throw abuse must make you feel very big, Mark. Maybe next time you can do it without sounding like a jerk?

  87. This post has been deleted by its author

  88. Julian Morcinek

    Bin the Beeb....

    Some arsewipe earlier commented that he'd like to 'kick' the FSF. Another no-brainer wrote something to he effect that you should 'just lump it you nerd'.

    Great. If 9 million households in Britain are on broadband, and only 90% of PCs are FOB with windows, that's a million of us who can't access the stuff. Imagine that, a large number of people can't access TVOD because.... they're black? Stupid? Need a good arse kicking?

    Frankly, it's some of you fascists on here that need a good kicking... Here's what C4 responded with to a query about 4oD..

    >Thank you for your email regarding 4oD.

    >

    > Unfortunately we cannot say when the 4oD service will be available to users of other platforms, including Mac OS and Linux. The problem is, our content providers (e.g. the production companies who make our shows), insist on using a DRM licensing system.

    >

    > The DRM (Digital Rights Management) system basically protects the video content from duplication and broadcast outside the UK & ROI. Currently they insist on using Microsoft's DRM, and because of this we can only support Microsoft operating systems.

    >

    > Linux currently has no such DRM system available and so our content providers will not allow us to support the Linux operating system. Macintosh do have a solution, however the closed DRM system used by Apple is not currently available for licence by third parties and there is no other Mac-compatible DRM solution which meets the protection requirements of our content owners. Unfortunately, we are therefore unable to offer 4oD and other video content to Mac users at this stage.

    >

    > We are sorry to disappoint on this occasion and assure you that if changes throughout the industry happen, as we would like, we will ensure the support of other operating systems.

    >End.

    So nothing there, then. Don't expect the BBC to be any better. And the bloody point is, they SHOULD be!

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You PAY to watch TV?

    I can't believe that the British are so gullible as to believe they must pay a fee to watch terrestial TV. I suppose the "TV Detector Vans" are patrolling right as I type. LOL Get a life, don;t pay your fee, watch the (crap on) TV for free!!!

    TV license = DRM of another kind.

  90. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obvious Solution!

    Maybe we should turn the colck back 20 years!

    The real solution would be for the BBC to make its own universially available computers, backed with with TV And Community and Further Education establishmentss to further the interestes of IT hardware and software for future generations that would surely give this nation a headstart in the world of Data Processing!

    Then we could have a proper british player UKPLayer showing repeats of nice period dramas and Black and white programs from the open university by proffessor sporting beards reminsicent of the !st Editon of the Joy of S*x books (so i am told)

    As this BBC computer would have its own Operating system and specific applicaitons it would surely make eveyone happy as we would no be party to any American or Gatesian Imperial Hedgemony!

    And who needs 16 million colours when those of use bought up and black and white computers thought that 32 colours was aspirational.

  91. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Security

    If people are worried about the security holes in Internet Explorer, why dont we liberate from all hardware and implement a platform independnat download streem ala allofmp3m but link the whole thing to a National ID card scheme to ensure only those british residents rightlyfully entitled to view*.

    Rather than develop some fancy player software, the BBC and the Home office could join forces an enable all uk residents (as indicated by an entitlement linked to the National ID scheme - i.e a portable licence linked to your identity allowing you to watch any BBC output regardless of delveiy channel or location) to be able to down load the data encoded in a selection of fomats (well if allofmp3 can do it for audio?) thus making all the various hardware and software fanbois happy.

    After all we would have already paid for the licence and it would just be giving us the freedom to watch the "repeats" when we wanted too rahter than having to wait for tem to be dished up randomly on the main channels of on UKTVreapeats or UKTVrepeatsGold+1

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As for Company spefic hardware - doe any one remember ?

    In the 30s there where two competing system of analogue TV transmission, the different systems where transmitted on alternate weeks until the BBC engineers (obviously in those days market forces, or consumer where not educated enough to make choices of this technical nature) decided that the current analuge system in this country was superior (according to the criteria they defined) and we now have a singe universal system. Obviosulthose people who had the wrong type of TV Were forced to turn them into cocktail cabinets and go out and by the new standard tvs!

    http://www.teletronic.co.uk/tvera.htm

    Then ther was second time when technology was restricted by Company specifc hardware, Video machines where once not universally compatible!

    Sony = Betamax

    JVC = VHS

    Phillips = Video2000 (at least they had better luck with the CD-rom)

    i remember the days of home taping a programme ( hhm, did kill tv?) and taking it around to friend only to find they had the wrong kind of VCR Player!

    obviosuly these days its not an issue, as i dont take or mail anything to and "linux" friends as they are too busy recompliing there kernal or trying be a LEE7 at FreeCiv or h4x0rs using Q!bert running under pixie on ArZ on their firmware hacked central heating systems.

  93. Dot5

    why drm at all

    Is DRM the last stand of the media industry? I can't understand why they don't accept that we are at the cusp of a new era and distribution will change.

    I don't think its coincidense that even now, with all the hoo ha about torrents and file sharing that the majority of people still pay for thier products. Given the fact that you can go to sites like torrentspy or piratebay and download dvd rips that people still choose to pay to download (larger) files which they can only watch for a limited time or number of times, and only on thier PC.

    With dodgy stuff available on torrents (poor quality/odd versions etc) it would be nice to be able to get legitimate copies of stuff even with adverts, if people knew that the feed will be very high quality and that they can share the torrent without feeling they will get some sort of comeback.

    Surely even the BBC would consider that a thousand people sharing the latest release of Dr Who (or whatever) would cost them less (and be faster for the usr) than if they were to host it on thier own servers, and have it played via an internally developed piece of software, especially given that people may come around to the fact that its just plain easier to download a torrent of the same files.

    If I were the BBC I would have done a test and released an episode of one of thier popular shows on a torrent site, put in some ads or whatever and guaged the response.

    Like people say DRM only affects legitimate customers, so why bother at all?

  94. Kris Chaplin

    Why iPlayer is deemed to fail

    It has an "i" at the front - which means Apple will most likely sue... don't they have rights on anything that starts with an i ?? :-)

  95. Iain

    Kontiki is horrid anyway

    If you're sensible/paranoid enough to be running Linux in the first place, the absolute last thing you'd want to do is install a rootkit to give the people behind Kontiki complete unrestricted control over your network connection. So why do you want iPlayer?

    If you can get Freeview, buy a decoder card and record the digital stream at around 4 times the quality iPlayer gives.

    If you can't, help yourself to a torrent stream from someone who did. Sure, there are legal questions over it, but it's hardly a bit ethical dilemma.

    Or have you been petitioning for a Linux port of Gator, too?

  96. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hhmm

    I see the linux guys have abandoned this debate already, I assume there rushing of to the next latest and greatest flame war on how thier niche is beater than your nich whilst the rest of us pick up the peices they leave behind....

    its all a bit gullivers travel.......

    now how to you take the top of an egg in linux AWK -% Grep £A£ Finger// *

    at least in windows there would be a File/open/egg menu option -rememebr to check the "Big Endian" or "Little Endian" as appropriate - after all you wouldnt want to get aint o futile pointless argument on how to take the top off an egg would you!?

  97. Mostor Astrakan

    Why do these so-called "Content providers" want DRM anyway?

    What are they afraid of? That we might actually watch their junk? Apparently, the things are already transmitted in the clear over the airwaves. So anyone with a VCR can copy them already.

    If these "content providers" insist on accusing me of theft every time I watch a movie, then they can bloody well keep their "content" and shove it.

    Yes, I also get annoyed by DVD peddlers that insist on making me watch their bloody "You know, copying this is Bad and Wrong. Stop doing it immediately". For five minutes, in twenty different languages! If I get a pirated DVD, then I don't get those messages. Who are they inconveniencing again?

  98. James Penketh

    Oh, so what?

    I am a Linux user. I don't support locking people out for making decisions about what tool they want to use.

    And I know that it is unlikely that Linux et al will ever get an iPlayer client.

    Is this a big loss?

    I very rarely watch TV now, and the only stuff I watch can quite easily be found on t'internet.

    (Actually, I only watch TV for CSI and a few interesting documentaries.(In other words, never the Beeb. :p ))

    Most of the stuff that is pumped out by the BBC is complete and utter dross. ('Panorama' and 'Doctor Who' for want of examples *dons asbestos longjohns*)

  99. Rob

    Hahahahahahaha.

    Sorry. I just laugh everytime I see the words "iPhone " and "will be a major platform for downloaded TV" in the same sentence. Who're you kidding?

  100. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux & Windows

    "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 found out relativley recently that WINDOWS IS ACTUALLY BUILT ON A LINUX / BSD base. That was until the advent of Windows Vista.

    Why cant the BBC take notice of what the public actually want, a reliable DRM free, not MS reliant player, that would actually shut up us LUG (Linux User Group) shouters and the FSF.

    Its not the fact that there is DRM on the offerings that is annoying us most, it is the fact the so far the BBC / BBC Trust have refused to give any concrete details of which "other operating systems" that they will make a player available for, they have not (as far as i am aware) even confirmed that they are actively developing something.

    The only pc I have access to that runs windows at home is the PC my son plays on, all the rest run a variety of flavours of linux.

    I am not anti-microsoft, just anti-microsoft-monopoly and completely anti the extremely inflated prices they think they can charge for (as far as i can see - and i have seen) software that is at best buggy and at worst incomplete. after all, who in their right minds releases software that has to be patched on day of issue (ie VISTA, and there wasnt just one patch released on that day). Personally I think that OPEN OFFICE is just as good as office, and the cost .... FREE, available for windows, linux AND mac.

  101. Vulpes Vulpes

    Holy Cr*p

    Don't you miserable sods have anything better to do? Thousands of lines of pontificating, pompous crap from self important, smug twerps who need to GET A LIFE.

    Go and recompile something FFS.

    Anyone would think that watching telly actually MATTERED.

  102. Ally

    Argh, can we stop comments on these stories?

    First off, becuse I can't stop myself:

    "Why cant the BBC take notice of what the public actually want, a reliable DRM free, not MS reliant player"

    'The public' couldn't care less if the player is MS-reliant- that's why the vast majority run Windows. When you said "The public" you meant what you said at the end of the sentence- "us LUG (Linux User Group) shouters and the FSF". Don't make the mistake of thinking the public cares.

    And, perhaps the best message so far:

    "Great. If 9 million households in Britain are on broadband, and only 90% of PCs are FOB with windows, that's a million of us who can't access the stuff. Imagine that, a large number of people can't access TVOD because.... they're black? Stupid? Need a good arse kicking?"

    Comparing people who CHOOSE to use Linux and can't use the iPlayer to the mass oppression of black people throughout the ages is quite mind-bogglingly insensitive and extremely thick.

    Any, back to the title of my post... can we just stop comments on these stories? We get at least 20 posts saying "why are the BBC using DRM anyway?" when we know full well that the production companies insist on it, another 10 saying "The production companies don't get to choose" when in fact they do, and the rest of the posts are just full of stupid analogies that don't hold up to any examination ("What if the BBC said they'd only broadcast to Sony sets?!??!?!?"- what, are they turning off the existing signal? Oh, thought not).

    Please, people. Shut the hell up.

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