back to article BBC wins go-ahead for Freeview HD content controls

Ofcom, the UK’s TV regulator, has today given the go-ahead for the implementation of content controls on Freeview’s HD service. The controls are designed to prevent HD content being copied, controls without which, broadcasters have argued, some programmes might not be able to be shown. The proposals mean that, while there won’ …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Consumer 0 - 1 Broadcaster

    Ofcom - voice of the corporate - to protect the corporate - to shaft the consumer. Excellent. Who pays their enormous salaries ?

  2. Steve Evans


    Don't you just love agreements hammered out by lawyers.

    So the programs aren't encrypted, but the program guide is, and to get the free key for the program guide you have to agree to not be a naughty boy. I assume chasing people for breach of contract is easier than chasing them for copyright infringement?

    IIRC Media center, certainly on XP, doesn't even use the OTA program guide... I assume that means we're free to be naughty?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      ahhhh thank goodness for open source feeding my myth backend does the job far better than the EPG- series links, programme genres, reviews.

      Do I get the feeling Aunties is just throwing the corporates a bone?

  3. Dave 15

    Very poor decision

    The real reason behind the move to digital is becoming apparent. Its nothing to do with 'quality' or 'more channels', its all to do with restricting the consumer. Now some may argue that this is reasonable that 'artists deserve to benefit from their work', but what about me? I work damned hard, the BBC takes a wedge of that effort and then squanders it on over paid presenters and 'commisioning works' from companies. I don't know about you but I think that equates to me paying for it, and if I've paid for it I want it, and I want it to look at again...

    1. spodula

      Real reason to go digital?

      Nah, the real reason to go digital is to the govenment can sell off the rather huge raft of old analog frequencies for potloads of cash(tm). There are loads of distinct technical advantages of the UHF frequencies compared to the higher frequencies they've been selling off over the last few years, and they could get loads for them! Admittedly there is a cost to all this, but as the consumer will end up paying for it, Who cares?

      I could easilly see the Cellphone operators jumping on UHF if only for the propagation characteristics, Hmm, we can get along with a quarter of the number of base stations you say? Where do i sign up?

      Why do you think they want us all to use Digital Radio? I'm surprised they havent chucked everyone off long wave yet for exactly the same reason.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Very poor decision

      "...if I've paid for it I want it, and I want it to look at again..."

      Since it's quite clearly stated in the article (you did read it, right?) that they are not going to allow the "copy never" flag to be set, you'll always be able to take one copy to view as often as you like. What you won't be able to do is run off multiple copies for your mates.

      Well, allegedly. Presumably once you've copied off the thing to the medium of your choice, duplicating that rather than copying from the box itself should be a trivial exercise.

  4. Brutus


    Just what are you complaining about here? From my reading of this article, there now are essentially no barriers to recording HD content from the Beeb.

  5. Jimmy Floyd


    This entire notion that HD content needs protection is absolute rubbish. Exactly how does a few more pixels justify content controls where none existed before?

    Answer: they don't, but licence-holders are using it as a smokescreen to expand their control further, at the expense of viewers.

  6. Evil Graham

    Royalty-Free and MythTV

    Whilst it's nice that the Huffman tables are being offered on a royalty-free basis, I'm not sure that this is much help to open-source projects like MythTV.

    The point of introducing licences is not really to collect revenue - it's to force manufacturers to sign the agreement itself, which is a kind of promise not to break the content management rules.

    Obviously IANAL but it's hard to see how an organisation like MythTV would be able (or even want) to sign such an agreement, as it isn't a regular profit-making company with products, services and someone to sue if it all goes wrong.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Here's a reason

      Because the internet is one great leeching machine for Freetards - and TV production companies actually want to be paid for the work they do via overseas rights, DVD sales, etc?

      Yeah, it's a real civil rights issue is leeching. You should go on a march, or summat.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Eh?

      I think it's just you and me who read the article, Brutus. No-one else seems to have done, or they'd have noticed that the programs will be unencrypted, that copying will be permitted, and that no fee needs to be paid to get the relevant tables.

      In response to the article's question "Will it stop piracy?" the answer is almost certainly no, but that's not the intention. The intention is to draw a thick red line between piracy and fair use, so that rights holders can throw the book at the former without being attacked by the latter.

      1. Jimmy Floyd
        Big Brother


        Fair enough, but what's that got to do with HD? Nothing. As I said, HD is being used as a smokescreen.

        Protect rights-holders, yes. But don't pretend it's either necessary for HD or directly beneficial to consumers. It's neither.

  7. Shadowfirebird

    Wouldn't entirely stop MythTV...

    We can get encrypted Sky programs, for example, by controlling a seperate sky box using infrared.

    But it would be a pain in the arse.

    Personally? I can't be bothered to store HD content -- it takes up too much disk space, and the extra quality isn't really worth it unless you have a £6k TV. But that's me.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How long...

    ...before the Huffman tables get out in the wild? Not very, I imagine. And it's not like they'd be epically hard to crack once you'd gathered enough data. At worst it's a minor inconvenience for copying/recording. I expect there'll be software to work round it within days of its release.

  9. Tom Chiverton 1


    So... it's just Huffman right ? With a custom set of look up tables ? Is this not *horribly* vulnerable to a simple* known-plain text attack (because you know it'll say "2200, BBC 1, News" somewhere), and as such anyone else can reverse engineer the tables and publish them for anyone to use without signing a freedom-reducing licence with the BBC ?

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Maybe, but nobody cares

        I doubt if the BBC sat down to "attack open source".

        I agree it's a problem for open source, but it only exists because you've designed yourselves for irrelevance. If Linux had 20 per cent of the market do you think this would have happened? Do you think content control would have been brought in if Linux had 80 per cent of the market?

        You failed to win a substantial user base for FOSS software, which would have made content owners think twice. You failed not because of any Microsoft or Apple conspiracy, but because no Linux distro has ever met the needs of the mass market.

        You failed all round, really.

        Now quit whining and do something useful with your life.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        how about..

        something analogical to libdvdcss - cracking the table at each run.

      3. Tom Chiverton 1

        FOSS is fine

        FOSS is fine. It never signed the licence, so can ship the tables (or the means to automatically make them) without limit.

  10. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  11. Paolo Marini

    digital going one-way only?

    as far as I remember, a TV licence grants me the right to receive live programs or to record any program from "TV" signals... it doesn't put any restriction on what I can do with the recording - as long as I don't redistribute copies as that would infringe copyright, but backups should be allowed as fair use - correct me if I'm wrong.

    now, with digital systems it is even easier to stream this live or recorded programs to other rooms of my house... why would I have to buy several receivers when I can simply have a display where I need one?

    excuses, just excuses to make us spend more money by imposing "virtual" limitations...

  12. Steve Foster

    PC Tuners?

    Anyone know of any DVB-T2 PC Tuners yet?

    1. Mike Brown
      Thumb Up


      try beebplayer. it works like a charm

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Not quite ...

      Your TV licence has nothing at all to say about recording (other than the fact that obviously there's a tuner in the recorder, for which a license is needed).

      The ability to record programmes has always been governed by UK copyright law, and the 'fair use' term is more generally used in the US than the UK, where the more usual term is 'fair dealing.'

      You don't have an automatic right to make a backup of a TV programme. What you do have in the UK is not a right at all, but a limited exemption from the Copyright laws for the purposes of timeshifting.

      This is what the Intellectual Property Office has to say (, which is essentially a more user-friendly version of section 70 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988:

      "A recording of a broadcast can be made in domestic premises for private and domestic use to enable it to be viewed or listened to at a more convenient time.

      This time-shifting exception does not however cover the making of recordings for placing in a collection for repeated viewing or listening. The making of a recording for purposes other than to time-shift a programme for your or your family is likely to be illegal."

      Backup copies of material are mentioned only in section 50 of the Act, specifically in relation to computer programs. I don't quite see how that could be applicable to TV recordings, and I suspect a lot of confusion arises from people reading things on the internet that are written in English and assuming they refer to UK copyright law.

      Personally, as a general rule of thumb, I work on the principle that if someone's talking about 'fair use' instead of 'fair dealing' then they are very probably basing their information on US law and anything they say about the UK situation should be taken with a pinch of salt

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge


        Though it can be quite funny reading/listening to people complain about their 'fair use' rights completely ignorant of the fact they have no such right in the UK.

        Fair dealing is far harder to achieve than fair use. The backup also does not apply to music, so for example;

        Ripping a CD to play on your iPod - Contravention of the law

        AFAIK you're dead on the mark in terms of putting a recording into a collection. Though it would take a particular scum sucker of a lawyer to come after you for that!

    3. Argh


      MyPlayer beta is in Android Marketplace now.

      It's not as functional as the Windows Mobile version (it only supports iPlayer at the moment, not other channels), but Beebplayer was withdrawn from the market quite a while back.

      I think the BBC are waiting for flash support to be officially released for Android, from what I've heard.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      still No PC DVB-T2 tuners

      "Steve Foster

      PC Tuners? #

      Posted Monday 14th June 2010 15:21 GMT

      Anyone know of any DVB-T2 PC Tuners yet?"

      don't be silly Steve, they have Only been officially Broadcasting DVB-T2 from winter-hill NW transmitters since November the second 2009....

      You cant expect them to have such basic things like actual , working PC DVB-T2 tuner USB2 cards actually for retail sale after a mere 7 months officially broadcasting terrestrial AVC HD in the actual Massive North west , Greater manchester and beyond of England.

      after all they as in the BBC, Ofcom, and the OEM manufacture, supply , wholesaler/retailer chain have only been actually testing this very DVB-T2 kit for 2 years plus, ..... what were You thinking, the actual real people in these area's wanting to actually buy and use these DVB-T2 USB2 (perhaps even USB3?) things on day one of the official broadcast date, dream on mate....

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Tom 7 Silver badge

    This isnt to protect the content

    its to protect the manufacturers of expensive equipment.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Excuse me?

      If you think "the legal system will have you only able to watch a recording one or two extra times" then I think you've read a different report to the one I just wrote here.

      There is absolutely nothing at all in any of the proposals, nor has there ever been, that will stop people watching a programme as many times as they would like. It would indeed be rubbish if that were the case. But it's not.

      Nor is there an absolute prohibition on being able to transfer a programme by making a copy of it; indeed, the guidelines say that the 'copy never' flag should not be used, and everything should be allowed to be copied at least once.

      Even with those boxes that do allow copying of SD - like the Toppy 5800 - my experience suggests that the vast majority of people don't actually do that. And the vast majority of those that do won't actually be inconvenienced because they'll be able to copy it once.

  15. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    Why are people whining about the BBC?

    YOU fucking voted for the Tories in the 1990s. The TORIES put John Birt in charge of the BBC, and John Birt f*cked the BBC so royally up the arse that it's become a pale shadow of its former self. John Birt *shattered* the BBC, breaking it up and effectively privatising it.

    The BBC DOES NOT MAKE MOST OF ITS PROGRAMMES ANY MORE! Why the f*ck do you think you have all those "Zeppotron" and "Endemol" logos at the end of so many programmes?

    Get it now? The BBC has *no choice* about how those programmes it commissions are made, nor does it get to dictate contract terms regarding protection and transmission limitations. If the independent producers say, "We don't want this programme to appear on iPlayer", it won't appear on iPlayer. End of.

    When you don't give a damn who you vote for. When you don't bother reading the small print. When you don't care who wins because "they're all the same", THIS is what happens.

    This isn't the BBC's fault.

    It's YOURS. Fucking grow up.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Nicely said Sir!


    2. Anonymous Coward

      This has been a party-political rant on behalf of the clueless party...

      "The BBC has *no choice* about how those programmes it commissions are made, nor does it get to dictate contract terms regarding protection and transmission limitations."

      Balls they don't. Who else dictates the contract terms for _COMMISSIONED_ programmes?

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        The ITC, then Ofcom

        The BBC doesn't get to dictate the terms any more.

        A review into the terms of trade for independent producers was conducted by the ITC; it recommended changes which form part of new codes of practice, laid down by Ofcom following the Communications Act 2003 and discussions between the broadcasters and PACT.

        Like other Ofcom codes, broadcasters have to abide by these; they also (under the 1990 Act) have to have a minimum percentage of material commissioned from independents.

        So, far from being balls, there are indeed regulatory constraints that dictate the terms on which the BBC and other public broadcasters are able to commission programmes.

        But then, I did actually say that in the original article.

  16. Bugs R Us
    Gates Halo

    Question from uTorrent user...

    What's this "Freeview" thingy?

  17. Jacqui


    We have been without live TV for just over three years and apart from the junk snail mail threats from Crapita and a couple of visits by enforcers we are pretty happy without the goggle box - OK his highness has missed some F1 and DrWho but this is not a "Biggie".

    We *were* thinking of getting a telly once more but are now used to the much higher quality available via downloads, we could not bear going back to the std def crap issued by the broadcasters - even broadcast HD is just barely viewable.

    So, we looked at some form a HD sat kit - perhaps a freesat system linked to a linux media box and a sat TV card. Looks the BBC have put the kybosh on this unless I hack the EPG or find the key on the net somewhere.

    But we all know that the BBC will not be happy with this - the keys will leak and they will complain that people will be curcumventing thier security measures and ask to be alloewed to encrypt all programming. This will be allowed in a year or so and you will probably need to buy a new freesat box sometime next year that incorporates the new decryption technology.

    As has already been said, MS, the content providers and box manufs now control the BBC.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Basically Broadcast Flag

    BBC are basically introducing the broadcast flag with complications necessary for legal/contractual reasons. EU regulations on how broadcasts are encrypted, need for technical protection before DTCP or AACS can be applied.

    Practically it won't affect MythTV much (works nicely enough on Freesat).

    BBC do believe that they have legal rights over the tables which you would be infringing by distributing them without a license. They believe they have the right to bring action against distributors of the tables in MythTV. I think they they will turn a blind eye.

    Working for a manufacturer of expensive equipment I promise you that we don't like complicated additional legal requirements and contracts that force us not to offer certain features to customers that practically projects like MythTV can offer. The BBC were made aware of our view although maybe this opposition was not public as being on the BBC's bad side didn't appeal to us so we bent and signed.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have no television license.

    So piss off Capita before I start legal proceedings.

    I have officially revoked your assumed right of access and threatened you with harassment charges,

    You still see fit to send your snoopy littlie oiks onto my property with the attempt to spy on me.

    I ask Capita and TV licensing this, does Tesco send their drones to my house to ask why I have stopped buying their product?

    Do they act as if they have the right to search my home and question me about my possible use of Tesco brand soup?

    NO they don’t because even Tesco knows how to mind their own fucking business.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What does the rest of Europe do in this respect?

    Genuine question, since presumably they're a bigger market for consumer electronics than the UK is, even taking into account the fact that some European countries may not yet have offshored all their consumer electronics manufacturing.

    So how does the EPG work in general on DVB? On DVB-T2 (or is the relevant EPG a UK-only "standard"?)

  21. Blue eyed boy

    Wait till the commercial stations jump on the bandwagon

    then according to an urban legend that's going the rounds, the programmes will include flags to disable the mute and (in recordings) the fast-forward during the commercial breaks, and set a minimum volume level.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Urban legend, indeed

      There were, at one time, suggestions that specific skip functions might be blocked (eg 90 secs forward) in Freeview+ equipment. That was ultimately dropped, but manufacturers are not supposed to promote such functions as a way of skipping adverts - a typical British fudge.

      The Ofcom letter to the BBC regarding this specifically states that the licence for the Huffman tables "must not contain any conditions other than those required to ensure effective content management"

      It would, therefore, be pretty hard for anyone to use this to force equipment to do any of these mythical things, even if the content protection system included flags to indicate when adverts are on, which of course it doesn't.

  22. Robert E A Harvey

    Dr, Proffessor - those are titles

    You know what? I don't care. I was quite keen on the idea of HD, but a glance at 'radio times' says it's not worth bothering with. It's all drivel, ain't it.

    If I have absolutely nowt to do I might watch 'top gear' or 'time team', but they are repeated ad nauseum, so I don';t need to record them. 'The News Quiz' is better than HIGNFY. I bought a VHS set of the Olivia Manning 'fortunes of war', and the DVDs of Quatermass, but there's been nothing else I want to hoard. Even the new Dr. Who.

    Mrs H watches TV, but I don't. I don't care what they do, because whatever it is won't include decent programmes.

    Whack-O, I unforget that.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Ermmm, just how does ...

    OK, so just how does taking away access to the guide data help stop piracy???

    Surely you can manually record things, then do whatever you want with it can't you?

    Did I miss something?

  24. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Huffman and broadcast flag

    @Tom Chiverton 1, "Is this not *horribly* vulnerable to a simple* known-plain text attack (because you know it'll say "2200, BBC 1, News" somewhere), and as such anyone else can reverse engineer the tables and publish them for anyone to use without signing a freedom-reducing licence with the BBC ?"

    I like I like!!! What would be even BETTER would be to just publish code that uses a plain-text attack to DERIVE the tables at runtime! Then, nobody's code has any naughty tables in it. Since it's UK-specific looking for "BBC" is probably fine, but looking for "The", "is", etc. would be more generic. (After doing some googling)... maybe not. I hate to say it, but the Sky box for instance has stuff like the whole word "Comedy" mapping to a 14-bit value, it is probably not something that'd just be found by a fast computerized search.

    Regrading broadcast flags, well at least here in the US there's a simple "solution" to that. Stations that were supposedly prohibited from using the broadcast flag (until 2012 I think?) just "forget" or "have technical difficulties" and set it. Windows Media Center and Tivo users both have been complaining for years that they'll randomly not record shows, record them but with a very short time to watch (as little as 90 minutes) and so on. I'd guess Auntie will not be able to get away with it but ITV and other digital channels? Well, who knows.

  25. Christian Berger Silver badge

    2 points

    First of all if they don't want to go digital, they should have stayed analog and used HD-Mac insteadt of DVB.

    Second, the more they try to controll their content, the more likely it is for this content to appear on Bittorrent.

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