BBC Trust: iPlayer must be cross platform

Update: Digital Lifestyles interviewed the OSC as they emerged from meeting the BBC Trust. Listen to the recording, which discusses the process planned to bring platform-neutrality to iPlayer.

Members of the Open Source Consortium met with staff at the BBC Trust yesterday to discuss their concerns about the iPlayer, due to launch in beta on Friday. And although the OSC left the meeting with reassurances that the Trust are committed to making the iPlayer cross platform, it is still unclear when solutions for Linux users will be rolled out. Speaking to ORG, the OSC said that the meeting was unlikely to deter them from taking their complaints to the European competition authorities.

The BBC could avoid all this mess if it eschewed DRM and instead employed standard formats. Sources say this is unlikely, since the BBC is under pressure from rightsholders to “protect” content it lets license fee payers download. But in other areas, like the recording industry, rightsholders are beginning to see how offering their wares without DRM can be good for business. The BBC should be leading the way on this issue, not running to catch up.

DRM is not a disincentive to downloading – it’s only ever a barrier to uploading. And given that, for example, Windows Media player DRM was cracked as recently as last week, it is not a very effective barrier at that. What’s really bizarre about the BBC’s employment of DRM for the iPlayer is that their programmes can already be downloaded using PVRs that receive free-to-air digital transmissions. Media convergence means there is no practical difference between unencrypted satellite, free-to-air, DAB or the internet in terms of control of content.

If you haven’t signed the iPlayer e-petition, do it now: news sources are beginning pick up on the growing number of people who feel they are affected by this issue. ORG’s response to the iPlayer consultation is here, and our work on DRM for last year’s APIG inquiry is here.