BBC Promises TV DRM Will Be ‘Light-Touch’, Ofcom Undecided


What’s a little harmless DRM? The BBC claims that plans by Freeview broadcasters to apply digital rights management to high-definition television content is “light-touch”, as Ofcom launches a second public consultation on the matter.

The regulator’s first public consultation, made back in September, was only open for 10 days. But in that time Ofcom says it got a large number of responses that raised a number of “potentially significant” fair use and competition issues.

Second time around, the basics of the proposal haven’t actually changed, but the BBC is hoping that a little coaxing will get naysayers to come around: “The proposed Freeview HD content management approach is so ‘light-touch’ that some have argued that it is not worth having,” writes Graham Plumb, the head of distribution technology at the BBC, in a blog post on the BBC’s site.

“Digital Rights Management, copy protection or content management is never going to be something that we would expect viewers to react to initially with the view ‘that sounds like a really great idea,'” he admits. “However, and just to be clear, we have absolutely no intention of doing this.”

Broadcast flag proposals in other markets like the U.S. have been met with controversy from consumers and device makers. One of the proposals in the UK plan would be for Ofcom to restrict HD programming information only to receivers that have been implemented for DRM.

Here’s a rundown of what the BBC and other Freeview broadcasters propose:

– all video and audio content will be broadcast unencrypted;
– content management would only apply to HD recordings (ie not standard definition recording or on existing Freeview recorders);
– time-shifted viewing of recorded HD content would be allowed;
– at least one “archive” HD copy on a removable device would be allowed;
– networked distribution and viewing of HD content in the home would be allowed;
– also allowed: uploading of standard definition copies of HD content to the internet (although copyright laws would probably prohibit this)

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