BBC places DRM on Freeview HD content

15 Jun 2010

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has agreed to allow the BBC to limit full availability of its high-definition Freeview content to certain kinds of HD receivers when the service is rolled out during the digital switchover.

The BBC outlined that certain HD receivers like standard DVR (digital video recorders) would be able to record the BBC’s and other free-to-air broadcasters’ HD content but that receivers without content management technology, such as certain Blu-ray players, should be restricted in how they copy broadcast material.

In essence, what the BBC is attempting to do ahead of the full digital switchover, which will be fully completed by the end of 2012, is to prevent multiple copying and distribution of its HD content across the internet.

The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 responded to a public consultation on the issue by providing evidence that without some kind of DRM (digital rights management) in place, high definition content, particularly films and drama series, would be compromised.

Ofcom said that “the decision to accept the BBC’s request will deliver net benefits to citizens and consumers by ensuring they have access to the widest possible range of HD television content on DTT”.

In response to those who felt that this would restrict open source developers from working on receivers that access HD EPG data by forcing them to take a licence from the BBC in order to access this, Ofcom said it would pose some restrictions but that most of these kind of manufacturers do not use open source software to begin with.

“The BBC proposals do not prohibit the use of open source software in receivers, but we recognise the proposal may introduce some restrictions on how it is used.

“We anticipate that any such restrictions will have a negligible impact on the mass market for HD Freeview receivers as many manufacturers do not use open-source software and in cases where they do can opt for an open-source licence which is compatible with the BBC’s proposed licensing arrangements.”

Photo: Dr Who, one of the drama series that will be protected from piracy by BBC’s HD DRM