Ofcom agrees to allow the BBC to hobble HD receivers

Ofcom have today dealt a serious blow to UK consumers and licence-payers by allowing the BBC to impose DRM for HD broadcasts.

Their decision will force them to buy non-standard equipment that may only work in the UK.

Ofcom have also dealt their credibility a serious blow by justifying their decision by saying this “will allow broadcasters to control the multiple copying of HD content and its retransmission over the internet”.

They accepted the spurious argument that HD content may not be provided in the UK without copy protection – despite the fact that unencrypted broadcasts occur in every other major HD market. In addition, the BBC has failed to name a single programme that would be withdrawn without the application of DRM to its broadcast.

Restrictive technologies create two results: they rig markets, removing competition and innovative technologies; and they encourage people to find ways round them. The results will harm competition and will not further either BBC or Ofcom’s legitimate aims. But it will bring calls for more restriction once these measures fail.

They have taken a decision which pushes technology further towards a copyright-centric model of control, where only copyright holders have the right to decide how everyday devices are allowed work.

In this new regime, people with hearing problems will be prevented from modifying their equipment to deal with their problems. Software developers will be stopped from making your TV, computer and mobile phone work properly with each other. Your choice of operating system will determine whether or not you can enjoy BBC HD broadcasts to their full extent. And HD devices will have to be built to work in the UK alone, reducing competition and pushing prices up.

Ofcom’s remit is to protect consumer interest and competition. They have failed to do either.

We will now be writing to the BBC Trust, asking them to intervene on the grounds of public interest. We will be again writing to the EU.

Ofcom today agreed to allow the BBC to restrict access to the Electronic Programme Guide for Freeview High Definition (HD) programming. The BBC plans to restrict access to manufacturers of set-top-boxes and integrated Freeview HD TV’s that include copy protection technology. This technology will allow broadcasters to control the multiple copying of HD content and its retransmission over the internet.

Freeview HD is being rolled out in line with the existing digital switchover schedule and will eventually be available to 98.5% of UK households by the end of 2012.

In response to a public consultation on this issue, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 provided evidence that without a content management framework in place the range of HD content available on the Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) platform – in particular high value film and drama content – would be compromised

Ofcom has concluded 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

Full Ofcom statement