Ofcom has granted permission for the BBC to restrict access to electronic programme guide data to HD DTT receivers that include content management technology. Broadcasters on Multiplex B, operated by BBC Free to View Ltd and including ITV and Channel 4, gave the regulator confidential details of programming that would have been pulled from HD schedules if an effective content management technology were not put in place.
Hollywood studios are believed to have applied pressure on broadcasters to include content management on the platform. Ofcom agreed that the BBC’s proposal would widen the range of HD content available on the DTT platform, in particular high value film and drama content. Were Ofcom not to have given its permission schedule changes on Freeview HD could have put the terrestrial platform at a disadvantage.
The protocol, known as the Huffmann Tables regulates the number of recordings that viewers might be allowed to make to an external device. Several manufacturers of devices for the Freeview HD platform include the capability to record free-to-air content from free-to-air broadcasters onto an external USB drive. Huffmann is already in place on Freesat and other platforms have their own content protection measures.
The objective is to control recordings and prevent its subsequent retransmission over the internet.
Content protection measures were initially written into the specification for digital terrestrial receivers by the Digital TV Group (DTG). Strictly speaking broadcasters are not obliged to follow the convention, though all sides of the industry are in agreement. Objections came from a number of consumer organisations such as the Open Rights Group. Ofcom acknowledged there may be an impact on Open Source implementations of HD DTT, but did not believe there would be a significant impact.
The BBC is proposing to licence the intellectual property required to access the data free-of-charge to receiver and IDTV manufacturers. It is not expected to have any major cost implications.
Along with the other public service broadcasters the BBC has pledged not to introduce content management onto standard definition broadcasters. It will also create a ‘user friendly’ consumer guide to content management that would be published on their websites and made available to manufacturers and retailers.