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Ashley Highfield | 14:13 UK time, Tuesday, 6 November 2007

An example of a BBC podcastI have read all the posts here, and followed links to further discussion on various blogs, with great interest. The first thing I want to say is that I am genuinely sorry if I've caused any offence to Linux users, and certainly did not mean to imply that you are not important to us. The BBC is committed to open standards, across television, radio and the internet wherever possible.

We do maximise the reach of our services by distributing our content via closed or prioprietary networks (Virgin Media, Sky, Tiscali TV/HomeChoice, mobile platforms, etc.) where appropriate, but also try and ensure that our content can be consumed through open solutions (whether over IP, DAB, or DTT). Sometimes, due to issues somewhat beyond our control (e.g. rightsholders conditions), we need to use proprietary solutions. We are exploring open source solutions to these. We can, and should, always do more, but if I may, a few points you might not be aware of:

The vast, vast majority of bbc.co.uk is powered by open source components (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl being the chief components [the LAMP stack] - our Real Media content has always been available on a number of OSes - from Windows and Mac through to Linux, BSD, Solaris and HP-UX.)

We have released to the developer community a number of the building blocks used as part of the bbc.co.uk application development process. The complete list is on bbc.co.uk/opensource.

We intend to open up our Rapid Application Development office (part of the Research & Innovation department, in which we are increasing investment) to various software community groups and we are in conversation with some of the major distributors about options for GNU/Linux. The result should be that future applications get designed with "open-ness" built in from the get-go.

Of course, we should release more applications on backstage.bbc.co.uk, and we intend to increase the number of projects within the BBC's open source programme (foremost amongst these is Dirac, which far from being dead - as one comment suggested - was looking extremely healthy [and award winning] when I saw it last at IBC in September).

We're looking to do more to promote open standards within the BBC, and to invest in the talent that has developed within these communities.

I will also kick off a piece of research to look into the size and more importantly the growth of the open source community within the UK, and what role the BBC could and should have in promoting it.

It's also worth mentioning that our service of podcasts and downloads of radio programmes is DRM-free.

I didn't anticipate this blog would get off to quite the start it did(!), but that's what it's here for, and I hope you will, over time, recognise that this is a genuine attempt to listen and engage and that, being human, I won't get everything right (especially in wide-ranging lengthy interviews), but I'm certain you'll put me right!

Ashley Highfield is Divisional Director, BBC Future Media and Technology Division

Comments

  1. At 03:30 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Ralph wrote:

    Bravo for this blog post after reading your "Linux Figures." It's a revolution in process, this change to free software.

    I'm older than you are, if that's a current photo above, and have used Linux exclusively on my desktop computers for exactly 4 years here across the pond in Boston. I would never go back to products from that convicted monopolist!

    Watch your Linux page-hit-counts rise as people realize how much more they can get, how much safer they can be, and how standing for the rights and principles of FREE SOFTWARE (fsf.org) promotes real freedom.

  2. At 03:34 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Andrew Suffield wrote:
    Sometimes, due to issues somewhat beyond our control (e.g. rightsholders conditions), we need to use proprietary solutions.

    Are you saying that for all content where there are no "rightsholders conditions", such as all the content produced by the BBC, since you are the 'rightsholder' for it, you are going to release the content in non-proprietary formats? I note that content which was produced by the BBC and paid for by the British public is the content which people are most interested in here - nobody really cares what you do with all the US imports, they're already available on the internet far more readily than any of this stuff you're building.

    If not, then all these words are at best politics, and at worst outright lies.

    The BBC is sitting on a huge archive of content that goes back decades, and it isn't even broadcast any more, it's just collecting dust on a shelf. We want it back. Your first priority should be to get it out there in the easiest and most direct way possible - don't build new complicated systems, just release what you've got, and other people will build systems around it. If some particular programmes are problematic, just skip them and move on to the next one. Worry about the hard parts once you've done the easy parts. Certainly every programme produced and paid for by the BBC from this point forwards should be available to the British public in its unencumbered form. Once you've done that, start working on the historical archives.

    Only once all of those things are working would you have any excuse in spending money to duplicate distribution of non-BBC content that is already available elsewhere.

  3. At 03:49 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Steffan Davies wrote:

    Andrew Suffield's comment that the BBC should concentrate on the vast archive of content that it does own outright before attempting to negotiate with rightsholders in the new world of outsourced programme-making matches exactly the points I and numerous others made at the BBC's "Broadcast Assassins" focus groups some years ago. We also begged the BBC to implement its own open media playing architecture before the pull of the proprietary platforms became overwhelming. Ah well.

  4. At 04:04 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Dave Crossland wrote:

    Thank you, Ashley, for referring to the GNU/Linux operating system as "GNU/Linux," at least once in your post. This is fair to both the GNU operating system project, who started the effort to write a totally free-as-in-freedom operating system in 1983, and the Linux kernel project, which wrote a small but essential piece of an operating system 8 years later and released it as free software soon after.

    However, you've called the OS "Linux" throughout the rest of the post, and in all your other posts. I appreciate that when you say, "being human, I won't get everything right," that fully includes getting terminology correct every time, but I hope you will take care to call the system "GNU/Linux" from now on.

    You can read more about this issue at http://www.gnu.org/gnu/why-gnu-linux.html

    I think it is important because when people hear the system was initially developed by the GNU project, they may be interested in the reasons the GNU project set out to develop the system: software freedom.

    I hope you too, Ashley, will take some time to understand those reasons.

  5. At 04:23 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Tom wrote:

    I can see why the BBC might be reluctant to implement a completely open DRM-free content delivery system, and that is because of your business model.
    Naturally, you are afraid that people will simply download the programmes, pirate them and thus avoid the license fee.

    Well it is already possible to pirate almost all of your content, however most people don't bother, certainly not to avoid licensing, because it is simply too much hassle.

    How if you were to make your system open enough (lets say just a plain and simple mpeg or xvid stream) whilst still ensuring that only license fee payers can access it -readily- (for example, requiring users to log in to download the streams, the login linked to their TV license), you won't have to worry about piracy, because people in general are not criminals. It's just when it is simply easier and more convenient NOT to pay, than to pay (as is always the case with DRM systems) then that's when people turn to piracy en-masse.

    DRM is just completely counter-productive, and I don't understand why more content providers haven't seen this. Not only is it fundamentally flawed from a mathematical point of view (If you can view the information, then you can copy it. Simple as that.) but it also sacrifices convenience, and I'm fairly certain that the recent rise in piracy is entirely due to the recent rise in DRM.

  6. At 04:27 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Dave wrote:

    You still haven't explained how you could possibly have thought that "600 users" could have been the correct figure. It's not even slightly plausible to anyone even peripherally familiar with the subject matter.

  7. At 04:32 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Phil wrote:

    Nice bit of flannel.
    Meanwhile, how exactly *DID* you get those numbers so frighteningly wrong??

  8. At 04:32 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Brian Butterworth wrote:

    The whole Linux thing is a total red herring.

    It is not for you, Mr Highfield, to determine what computers and operating systems that people who HAVE to pay the TV Licence will use.

    The BBC Charter runs for ten years. Can you really say you know what OS and platforms people will be using in a decade?

    That's a retorical "no" by the way.

    The sad, sad part of the whole debate is not the cross-platform issue, but the throwing away of the BBC's unique funding method.

    If you HAD not wasted time and effort on "snake oil" DRM solutions, and sorted out with the rights holders to get as much content onine as possible, then there would be a clear political argument to shift the BBC Licence Fee from a charge on homes with TV sets to homes with Broadband.

    (This is possible, the Archers is a podcast, EastEnders could be a VODcast)

    You could even save the costs of collections by getting the ISPs to collect the fee for you.

    But the path you have chosen is simply going to wreck the BBC on the shores of advertising and subscription.

    You have made a critical mistake, Mr Highfield, much like Mark Thompson made at Channel 4.

    DRM = RIP BBC

  9. At 04:58 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Tom Loosemore wrote:
    Are you saying that for all content where there are no "rightsholders conditions", such as all the content produced by the BBC, since you are the 'rightsholder' for it,

    AFAIK, there is not one piece of content the BBC broadcasts, or has in its archive, in which by default it owns all rights in perpetuity. Where it has made stuff available for download it's had to renegotiate existing rights deals. This isn't cheap, easy or even possible in some case - even the BBC can't force rights holders to sell if they don't want to. This is why Desert Island Disks isn't available on demand in RadioPlayer.

    Your licence fee didn't buy the right to own content in perpetuity. It bought the right for the BBC to rent programmes from rightsholders for broadcast on your behalf.

    You may think this model is wrongheaded in a broadband world, but it's been the reality for 80 years of BBC broadcasting in the UK. Such long-entrenched models don't change overnight. For example, many retired actors' pensions depend upon repeat fees and DVD sales - income they fear they might lose if their art was made available globally for free and in perpetuity. And that's before we get to their moral rights around re-use...

    Rightsholders come in a myriad of shapes and sizes - from scriptwriters, to actors (Equity), to composers, to the recording industry, to stills libraries through to independent TV companies who, by order of the Queen, make and own rights in up to 50% of BBC programmes (minimum of 25%).

    Note, I'm not defending the existing broadcast rights model. But making *any* broadcast content available on demand - be that DRM'd or otherwise - is profoundly non-trivial. We're in the land of the possible, rather than the land of the ideal here.

  10. At 05:02 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Matt Lee wrote:

    Perhaps the BBC could commit to offering podcasts and other radio programmes in the free and open Ogg Vorbis format.

    Currently, BBC Radio programmes require either RealPlayer or Windows Media Player.

    The BBC has dabbled with Ogg Vorbis in the past.

  11. At 05:12 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Ewan wrote:

    The issue of Linux and Apple users is surely a straw man here?

    The real issue isn't that a specific group of users can't access the BBC iplayer system, but that the BBC has handed over control of who can access the iplayer to an outside company (Microsoft) through the choice of technology used, a company which is a convicted abuser of their monopoly position in the computer market.

    It is absolutely in Microsoft's interest to allow only Windows users to access the BBC iplayer, and any other method of access whether it be a Nokia mobile phone or a Linux PC will always be a second-class citizen.

    This was an extremely short-sighted decision by the BBC, with the rapid advancement of mobile phones people will soon be expecting to receive video on demand from the BBC, and view TV shows from the BBC on their ipods, something you won't be able to provide without a complete rethink of how you deliver video and handle DRM.

    On a seperate note, why didn't a figure of only 600 Linux users in the UK accessing the BBC websites didn't make you think "Oh, that seems a little low, I'll double check that"? I can imagine the BBC alone employing 100 people using Linux, let alone companies with large numbers of technical users like IBM.

  12. At 05:16 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Noah Slater wrote:

    I think we all appreciate your candor.

    "I will also kick off a piece of research to look into the size and more importantly the growth of the open source community within the UK, and what role the BBC could and should have in promoting it."

    I think a great place to start with your research into GNU/Linux is to open communication channels with the Free Software Foundation (http://www.fsf.org/) and discuss with them the best ways in which you can help promote and support Free Software.

    The Free Software Foundation is self-described as "[the] organization that 'started it all' in free or open source software."

  13. At 05:23 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Liam wrote:

    [quote]Only once all of those things are working would you have any excuse in spending money to duplicate distribution of non-BBC content that is already available elsewhere.[/quote]

    I agree. This is also not about offending Linux users, its about making content available in an equitable manner that is consistent with the BBC's public service remit. Don't forget everyone pays the licence fee and has thus equal rights to access that content.

    Its difficult to have this discussion without seeming to appear anti-Microsoft. They should be judged by their record alone. However do you really think that the future of the delivery system you chose should be subject to the commercial whim of one organization over which neither you nor your stakeholders have any influence?

    I'm not suggesting that the OSS community (free or otherwise) will give you any better guarantee but don't you think it might be a good idea to hedge your bets here?

  14. At 05:41 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Andrew Oakley wrote:

    The BBC does NOT distribute content via Sky. It distributes content via the Astra 28 East satellite system. You do not need a Sky subscription to watch the BBC using digital satellite.

    The reason it works with Sky and with other digital satellite systems is (wait for it...) the BBC uses an open standard (DVB-S) and refuses to use digital rights management (DRM). The BBC isn't tied to one digital satellite provider!

    Strangely this is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the BBC's attitude to the iPlayer... why?

  15. At 06:56 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Stuart Caie wrote:

    The part I find illuminating about open versus closed standards is the relative position that the BBC and "content" owners believe they are in.

    If you want your "content" shown to the nation, you simply have to accept it will be broadcast in PAL I over UHF, DVB over UHF, DVB over cable and DVB-S over satellite. These are all open, unencumbered formats that anyone can make a decoder for. Anyone could potentially upload the signal to the Internet. Content owners accept this bargain because they have no other choice. If you want 20 million people to see your "content", you have to accept that it'll be broadcast unencumbered. People will not buy a new TV that adds restrictions. People will not give up their video and DVD recorders. You have to accept it.

    Compare that with the internet situation, where it's currently uncharted territory. Only a few people have grown up with the 'net, unlike TV. Not so many people are "used" to having the internet equivalent of video recorders. There also isn't nearly as large an established audience. Thus, the content owners are willing to push their luck and insist on adding needless layers of obfuscation, in the hope this somehow combats TV piracy networks.

    But wait! If there's no DRM on normal telly, why haven't all the "content" owners gone out of business already? Copyright law. Copyright law already provides all that's necessary to stop illegal distribution.

    DRM is an unnecessary external cost. It has to be designed into protocols and formats, deliberately kept shrouded in secrecy, it deliberately adds extra processing work to decoding a signal - which you pay for in higher system requirements - all so the "content" owner can say to you "I don't trust you". DRM tries its best to prevent a large number of non-infringing activities, such as time-shifting, space-shifting, watching again, quoting and so on.

    What DRM really does is drive normal people into the hands of pirates, who simply re-encode the unencumbered signals they received from terrestrial broadcasting! Why should normal people be pushed towards criminals so content owners can pretend to themselves that DRM is being accepted?

  16. At 07:58 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Carl wrote:

    Hi, Another Linux user here.

    Ashley, you do know that DRM actaully stands for Digitally Restricted Media, NOT Digital Rights Management, don't you?

    I am extremely disappointed that the BBC, a publicly funded organisation (through the television licence), is going down this DRM nonsense with the proprietary Windows lock-in platform.
    What on earth are you people up to? How much money have you wasted on this DRM nonsense already? I think you really need to sort out your priorities, and catch a serious wake up. WE DO NOT WANT/NEED DRM!!! This is what copyright law is for, and it covers this amply. Have you not learned anything from the record/music industry?

  17. At 08:14 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Brian Butterworth wrote:

    The BBC is on satellite using the EU directive "Television without Frontiers", EU (89/552/EEC CHAPTER II, Article 2) directive that states:

    "2. Member States shall ensure freedom of reception and shall not restrict retransmission on their territory of television broadcasts from other Member States for reasons which fall within the fields coordinated by this Directive"

    http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31989L0552:EN:HTML

    Greg Dyke states (p187, "Inside Story"):

    "When the BBC first put its television services onto BSkyB's digital platform it took the rather odd decision to pay BSkyB £5 million for the privilege of doing so. It was a decision taken back in 1998 and it was odd because BSkyB were desperate to get the BBC on board and would happily have paid them to get them. The BBC were total mugs. In late 2003 ... two further things happened. First a new satellite had been launched with a smaller footprint that only covered the UK and part of Northern Europe.

    Second, I discovered from my colleagues in the German equivalent of the BBC that they happily put their signals out unencrypted - this was allowed under European rules on overspill."

  18. At 09:16 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Peter von Kaehne wrote:

    Thanks for the apology.

    I will also kick off a piece of research to look into the size and more importantly the growth of the open source community within the UK, and what role the BBC could and should have in promoting it.

    Thing is no one expects from you any kind of promotion for anything. What you are asked for is to stop blocking people making their own choices.

    iPlayer interferes with my right to access a publicly funded site and all its content in a way of my own choosing.

  19. At 09:26 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Peter von Kaehne wrote:

    Thanks for the apology.

    I will also kick off a piece of research to look into the size and more importantly the growth of the open source community within the UK, and what role the BBC could and should have in promoting it.

    Thing is no one expects from you any kind of promotion for anything. What you are asked for is to stop blocking people making their own choices.

    iPlayer interferes with my right to access a publicly funded site and all its content in a way of my own choosing.

  20. At 10:03 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Jack wrote:

    Given the level of investment poured into the iPlayer platform, I suspect the BBC is now committed to staying with it. Like many Linux users I am not happy about this, but I know that expensive decisions involving a commitment to closed platforms are not easy to reverse. The requirements of Linux and Macintosh users could really only be satisfied by scrapping the current platform and building a new one, and even if you did it with open standards all the way, there would still be a substantial engineering cost.

    However, I think that you should consider a licence fee discount for people who cannot use iPlayer. There is a discount for blind people, and for people with black and white TV sets. There should be a discount for people without the required Windows XP software too. We can't make full use of the BBC's services because we haven't paid Microsoft for the ability to do so.

    If my licence fee money isn't paying for iPlayer, then I'm satisfied (if not happy). But as it is, the only way I can avoid paying for iPlayer is if I get rid of the TV and stop paying the licence fee. That's not fair.

  21. At 10:03 PM on 06 Nov 2007, John wrote:

    From a BBC press release in May 2007:

    Erik Huggers joins the BBC on the 21 May as BBC Future Media and Technology Group Controller.

    In this principal role he will facilitate development of strategy between all three Future Media and Technology Controllers to ensure an appropriate and balanced overall portfolio of future media services.

    Erik joins from Microsoft, where he has worked for the past nine years across a wide variety of industry changing digital media initiatives. After successfully launching the MSN portals in the Benelux countries he went on to lead the European business development efforts of Windows Media Technologies.

    Erik established Windows Media as a leading platform used by the European media and entertainment industry to create, protect and deliver audio-visual content to consumers via the internet.

  22. At 10:12 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Christian wrote:

    Hello there,

    as a German, I just want to add the our state sponsored TV ZDF has just launched a complete new video and multimedia website called "Mediathek". And they offer, among Windows Media and Quicktime VLC as open "format" (well, its a player, not a format, don't know what codec they use, I think H.264), as VLC (Video Lan Client) is available to nearly all platforms known to mankind.

    So please convince yourself: Here you can watch German TV without DRM and in a free and open format:

    http://www.heute.de/ZDFmediathek/content/9280?inPopup=true
    (the entrance page also uses Flash)

    The BBC is in a strong position - why don't you just require your contract partner to allow to broadcast without DRM on the internet, like you are allowed to broadcast without DRM on cable/air/satellite?

  23. At 10:12 PM on 06 Nov 2007, James Cridland wrote:

    Earlier, Matt Lee wrote:

    Perhaps the BBC could commit to offering podcasts and other radio programmes in the free and open Ogg Vorbis format. Currently, BBC Radio programmes require either RealPlayer or Windows Media Player.

    First, a disclaimer: I'm an employee of the BBC, working within what normal people might call BBC Radio Interactive (we call it A&Mi), though I'm not posting on the BBC's behalf tonight.

    I was an employee of a commercial radio station before I joined Auntie in July. That station is one of the world's most listened-to online radio stations. I made the decision, while there, to support Ogg Vorbis. But, after four years of supporting it on a Linux-friendly site - and even being a preset in some GNU/Linux distros - I could count the total listeners to Ogg Vorbis, at peak times, on both hands. And, um, one foot. But not using all the toes. (Those stats are not dissimilar to others I've discovered elsewhere on the 'net for Ogg use).

    I don't deny that Ogg Vorbis is a splendid thing in theory. In pratice, my experience is that few people bother with it - not helped by the fact that few major players cope with it.

    My Ubuntu box copes quite happily with an open source version of Real Player; presumably this Puppy Linux box would too if I bothered to download it; and the Mac under the telly copes with both Real and Windows, thanks to a free plugin to Quicktime. So, free-to-the-user alternatives to Ogg Vorbis exist on all major platforms.

    While I don't think that Real + Windows = the only way of broadcasting online, I'm yet to be convinced, personally, by Ogg Vorbis. You're welcome to disagree; and perhaps I might expand on different ways to enjoy radio when I make my first blog posting in this blog.

  24. At 10:30 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Chris Lingard wrote:

    If your figures are correct you only have 6000 customers throughout the United Kingdom. In this village, in Lincolnshire about 40% use GNU/Linux

    Who pays for this. I would hate you spending our TV license fee on a convicted foreign monopolist. I hope Microsoft pay you for your support.

  25. At 10:59 PM on 06 Nov 2007, B wrote:

    Come on now people, he was only off by two orders of magnitude, a paltry 16000%. If a mistake of that enormity is indictive of how the BBC operates, as these handwaving exuses seem to indicate, then there are far, far more serious issues than DRM. I suggest a public audit of their finances, for example, an examination of how much of the BBC is owned by foreign companies, of how much of what the BBC says, does, and shows is controlled by, for examle, American, or Chinese, or Saudi Arabian countries, companies and corporations.

    Or are you fine with, for example, your taxes being given to an (in this case) American company, for no other purpose than to obstruct your rightful access to content you have already paid for? That I think is the crux of the issue.

  26. At 11:15 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Mark Bateman wrote:

    SO the underpinning argument for doing it windows-only is... DRM to protect "rightsholders conditions" I don't think anyone would question companies/individuals wanting to protect their IPR

    WHAT is is question is the mechanism involved. For one that is DRM itself and secondly... Microsoft implementation of DRM

    DRM is flawed and I don't know of any that has not been bypassed. Even the HDDVD DRM was cracked fairly quickly and play4sure (the DRM chosen for iplayer) has been cracked... ergo the BBC is NOT! protecting "rightholders conditions"
    SO much so that a few record companies has started reducing their use of DRM in music AND apple (use to be a very strong DRM advocate) is selling non-DRM music, but instead finger-printing tracks to trace their source

    The BBC could easily fingerprint an iplayer download with the TV-license key so if such files were made avail on peer-2-peer the individual could be traced (again not to hard to bypass but neither is DRM now is it...)

    IF DRM is demanded then the question of WHY such a tie-in with Microsoft (a known anti-competition company). Effectively the BBC has re-enforced MS's monopoly by making it so only specific OS,browser,media-player are usable, something MS went to court for enforcing and LOST! (in the US over IE and in Europe for WMP)

    IF DRM is required/demanded by some parties again their are options like sun's open DRM
    http://www.openmediacommons.org/
    So that way the BBC can have DRM and it can be cross-platform AND don't have to pay the MS-tax. When I say the BBC don't have to pay the MS-tax to licence their DRM, I mean the licence payers ie, US!

  27. At 12:55 AM on 07 Nov 2007, TM wrote:

    Dear Sir

    I am glad to see you state

    "The BBC is committed to open standards, across television, radio and the internet wherever possible."

    Let us see if the companies that are working with Linux perceive this.

    Obviously any action on your part not to work with them will lead to seriously negative publicity.

    Good luck!

    I don't envy your future.

    rgds


  28. At 01:09 AM on 07 Nov 2007, Chris Fox wrote:

    Ashley,

    Bravo for engaging with the Open Source community so candidly on this issue. I was fortunate enough to hear one of your colleagues speak briefly at LugRadio Live 2007 in Wolverhampton earlier in the year, and I do appreciate both the complex nature of rightsholders' conditions and the BBC's dedication to Free (or at least DRM-Free) systems elseware.

    That said, I struggle to see how your treatment of television can be so different to your treatment of radio and other material, especially for your homegrown material like Eastenders, Blue Peter, Red Dwarf, and so on.

    I strongly believe that the unique position of the BBC in the marketplace makes it the only UK broadcaster with the opportunity to innovate in this emerging arena. Unencumbered by obligations to corporations and shareholders, the Beeb really shouldn't squander the chance to put itself head and shoulders above the other networks by offering a public service the others simply cannot match.

  29. At 01:35 AM on 07 Nov 2007, Colin Templeman wrote:

    Hi Ashley,
    My inner pedant has forced me to comment that LAMP is widely used as an acronym for Linux Apache MySQL and PHP (not Perl).
    With that off my chest, I merely wish to add my voice to those requesting the BBC adopt open standards for digital content provision. Although a GNU/Linux user myself, open standards are the foundation upon which platform agnostic content provision solutions are built. In turn ANYONE, be they Mac, Linux, OS/2, BeOS, or even a Windows user, can enjoy unfettered access to what the BBC does best - provide quality programming.

  30. At 02:48 AM on 07 Nov 2007, Xbehave wrote:

    im a linux user (don't even get me started on how pathetic gnu/linux is coming from people who hate the idea of a bsd license)

    and i find it quite frustrating that were unable to accept that some drm is necessary. Even the old BBC content is used by bbc-worldwide to reduce our license fees so shouldn't be given away.

    The only 'mistake' has been to address the other 85%+ before us, but as i license payer id rather that 85% of people got something than 100% getting nothing!ESPECIALLY after promises of a mac (other 15%) and linux player in the next 2 years

    flash is a good temporary solution for the 15% of left as long as work continues towards another solution

    p.s if the open source community ever get round to developing a drm program ( which is gunna be hard because all the gnu fans are too buzy complaining instead of finishing hurd), youll probably find it much more secure that proprietary versions, because it'll be designed secure like ssh, pgp, Truecrypt, and friends (also on linux additional protection can be added for various ways to crack into drm that just arn't available on ms)

  31. At 07:24 AM on 07 Nov 2007, John Gill wrote:

    The vast, vast majority of bbc.co.uk is powered by open source components (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl being the chief components [the LAMP stack] -

    This is one reason that the iplayer was so annoying. The BBC builds much of its IT infrastructure on open source, but fails to provide content to the community that gave them those tools.

  32. At 10:29 AM on 07 Nov 2007, Robert Osfield wrote:

    The following statement of yours:

    "The vast, vast majority of bbc.co.uk is powered by open source components (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl being the chief components [the LAMP stack]"

    Suggests to me that 100% of visitors to the BBC website actually use Linux. Once doesn't need to do any stats on it, its a straight fact.

    Now at the client end its a bit more difficult to know what the percentage is, but one would have to be incredidible mis-informed to believe that linux client usage figures are only in the hundreds, or worse it was done to mis-inform. Incompetence or cynical manipulation? Or somewhere in between?

    Whatever the answer to this it doesn't leave a great deal of confidence in the integrity of the BBC department in charge of the iPlayer debacle.

    The title of this blog "Open Standards" in this blog is pretty hollow, and directly contradicted with what you've done with iPlayer. The claim that copyright holders rights forced the BBC to embrace a single platform DRM solution is shabby.

    Copyright Law is about balancing the rights of creator with that of the public. DRM abuses copyright law by removing the rights of the public, and for many it removes the the ability to even view the work. The BBC is public broadcasting institution - its fundamentally about broadcasting works to the public not restricting it to a chosen subset of the public.

    If you want to understand the strong reaction from the public on this issue, then you need to look beyond client OS's, it deeper issue of rights. My guess readers of the BBC website who use Linux are presently over represented by the highly educated and technology savy, and whom are briefed on intellectual rights. A disproportionate number probably are major copyright owners themselves. We can spot abuse of rights, abuse of the law.

    Given the technology expertise out there in your Linux readership might I suggest that the BBC actually embrace their talents. If you want a good technological solution reach out to the public for help developing a solution. You might just be pleasantly surprised that the I.Q. of your readership is substantially higher than your recent missives have assumed.

  33. At 01:02 PM on 07 Nov 2007, Xbehave wrote:

    "My inner pedant has forced me to comment that LAMP is widely used as an acronym for Linux Apache MySQL and PHP (not Perl)."
    LAMP can stand for anything including
    "# LAMP, where the P is for Perl or Python"

    DRM still leaves us with the right to watch the content, just not to copy or keep it. ISNT that a compromise?

    "You might just be pleasantly surprised that the I.Q. of your readership is You might just be pleasantly surprised that the I.Q. of your readership is substantially higher than your recent missives have assumed.substantially higher than your recent missives have assumed."
    why do linux users insist on thinking that people not using linux are stupid, an OS is just that, its not a lifestyle choice, also knowing alot about computers in no way boosts your IQ! are all linux users smarter than doctors who use MS and so we should do our own surgeries?

  34. At 01:50 PM on 07 Nov 2007, Jack wrote:

    p.s if the open source community ever get round to developing a drm program ( which is gunna be hard because all the gnu fans are too buzy complaining instead of finishing hurd), youll probably find it much more secure that proprietary versions, because it'll be designed secure like ssh, pgp, Truecrypt, and friends (also on linux additional protection can be added for various ways to crack into drm that just arn't available on ms)

    Actually DRM is an impossible problem, cryptographically speaking, because you have to provide the viewer with both the ciphertext and the key, then rely on the software on his computer to only allow access to the plaintext under special circumstances. But the software might have been modified to leak the information. So even the most brilliant programmers cannot come up with an uncrackable DRM scheme. (The content industry normally acknowledges this and advocates DRM only as a way to "keep honest people honest": unfortunately DRM has a tendency to inconvenience honest people.)

    Oh, and licence fee discount for non-iPlayer users please.

  35. At 02:42 PM on 07 Nov 2007, Tim wrote:

    I thought after 'recent events' the country had seen the back of spin, but here's the beeb with their version...

    a) The BBC is a net *consumer* of open-source technologies, not a contributor.
    Your 'open source' credentials are silly. MS uses open-source technologies, but they're hardly a friend/contributor of open-source - neither are the BBC.

    b) The initial figures you gave for linux usage were 'clearly wrong'. Not 'an expert would know' but 'anyone with a passing interest would know they were wrong'.
    Were they used in decisions regarding DRM? From the general disdain shown by the BBC, I'd have to say that you had no interest in the figures whatever they showed.

    And this is all bluster over your decision:
    - to purchase DRM.
    - to purchase DRM from a convicted monopolist.
    - to purchase that DRM for only the platform the convicted monopolist sells.
    - to somehow expect that company to port to another platform for no obvious reason.
    - to then hire an ex-employee of that company to oversee the development of the project.
    - to plan to support other platforms 'somewhen' 'somehow' with no obvious (or non-obvious) route for that ever to happen.

    Personally, I'd love to see a panorama investigation into this mess - because what you've stepped into/claimed truly stinks.

  36. At 03:11 PM on 07 Nov 2007, Robert Osfield wrote:

    Xbehave wrote:
    "DRM still leaves us with the right to watch the content, just not to copy or keep it. ISNT that a compromise?"

    No, it restricts the right to view the context to only those that have that particular DRM player. In this instance it means only WindowsXP users who download the iPlayer.

    One could produce a DRM'd player which is cross platform so it works on all Windows versions, phones, Macs, Linux boxes etc. The BBC chose not to do this, even though it was perfectly possible.

    Whether DRM'd player is at all desirable is another matter entirely.

    Xbehave wrote:
    "why do linux users insist on thinking that people not using linux are stupid,"

    This is what you have asserted, not what I not any other Linux user here has asserted. Please re-read the original text - you copied it twice, but somehow were still able to mis-interpret it.

    Suggesting that linux readership is intelligent and capable of helping the BBC out to provide a solution to this issue, and for the BBC to embrace their talents doesn't imply anything about the relative skills of users of other operating systems.

    Considering that the majority of tools that provide the services on BBC website have already been provided by members of the open source community (majority of whom are linux users), it's no great stretch to be believe that that same community is quite capable of helping develop a streaming video capability both on the client and server ends, much of the required solution already exists.

    It's also no great stretch that BBC readership who also use linux just so happen to be the same developers of the tools that the BBC already use.

    As a point of reference I've seen bbc.co.uk domain pop up a couple of times in members of my own open source community so I know first that there is a real overlap. I'm a UK citizen, an open source developer (3d graphics), a payer of the license fee, a user of BBC websites.


  37. At 03:51 PM on 07 Nov 2007, Liam wrote:

    Just another GNU/Linux user here.

    Thanks for the minor U-turn. Although if you keep blocking GNU/Linux users from the iPlayer service the platform will never get any market share.

    Don't judge how big to build the bridge based on how many people are swimming in the river.

    From the perspective of many you have imposed a Microsoft tax upon the British people. Isn't this legally questionable behaviour? Particularly when yourself and Huggers used to work for Microsoft. If Windows is the only platform that matters, that makes it a monopoly, one that needs to be broken up. You are distorting the market by only offering a Windows client, something the government is very keen for you to avoid.

    @Xbehave: I don't think that all people who use anything other than GNU/Linux are stupid. They don't know what most GNU/Linux users realise about Microsoft though. I would say non-GNU/Linux users are misguided and uninformed, that's not the same as stupid.

    One thing to come out of this debacle is that more people will become educated on how Microsoft abuse their monopoly to ensure a grip on new markets, i.e. infiltrating the BBC with their own employees.

  38. At 11:14 PM on 07 Nov 2007, PaulH wrote:

    Another linux user here.

    I got upset by previous comments from the BBC

    12 protesters says it all
    Only 600 are Linux
    30000 Linux users is a not insubstantial number, but we do have to keep this in context with the vast majority of users

    You say that you did not mean to say that Linux users do not matter to the BBC, but this is what the comments paraphrased above suggest to me. I really hope the BBC do care about me

    As others have said, it is not about a particular operating system, it is about freedom to watch when, where, on which device and which operating system I choose to use. Using Flash/Real still limits the choice to the operating systems the owners of those programs have chosen to support. Generally you have to be connected to the internet to use the content. Podcasting of radio programs frees you a lot. I can download the media to whatever device I want to use, and listen to it on the train, on the plane, on the hills, using my MP3 player, phone, PDA, laptop, or even at home on my desktop. I understand that while in some countries playing MP3 is not allowed in Fee software due to patent issues, it is OK here because you are not allowed patents on software.

    With the current setup for video content you are not only limiting people to using a particular operating system from a particular manufacturer, you are also limiting where people can view the content, i.e. from home on their desktop PC or laptop.

    I used to watch short films at the BBC Film Network. I found that I could not access an increasing number of them. I signed up for the player trial, but I could not use any of the content because you set it up not to work on my PC.

    I am saddened and surprised by this attitude from the BBC. I pay the same license fee whatever operating system my PC has, so I expect the same service. I am surprised that you are saying that for the first time ever you need DRM. No reasoning was given as to why you need DRM for broadcasting over the internet, but not over the air. I can record Freeview/terrestrial signals to a DVD and copy it to my PC, and watch it but internet broadcasts must be encrypted so I can not watch them. Something to do with me not being trusted to use it legally. So how can I be trusted when it comes to Freeview?

    I also do not understand what you say about content owners demanding the use of DRM. I remember hearing a few years ago that no American musicians played in the proms because the BBC insisted that it would be broadcast over the internet worldwide. Now American musicians do play in the proms and are broadcast over the internet. They got over it. What is different here? Then there is the huge amount of content that the BBC owns, which we have payed to be created with our license fee, and the content which the BBC holds which is in the public domain.

    Some of this public domain content was given to the BBC by people who recorded the unencrypted signals, and kept them (Possibly illegally), they could not have done this with the DRM player you are putting in place. The BBC now wants to encrypt these when they are broadcast again so we can not use our legal right to keep material that is in the public domain.

    I do not know how this happened. I suspect that some manager in the BBC was not sure what to do, so got a nice salesperson from Microsoft to tell him/her. They know about computers, they will tell us! It was always seen as a pilot, we will get round to giving the rest a service at some stage, but you never considered how this would be done. Microsoft may produce a version of the software that will work on Apple, but not on any other operating system. As I say, it is not Linux that is the issue. I want to be able to watch BBC content whatever operating system I happen to be using, whether it is Linux, Solaris, Symbian, Palm, BSD, OS/390, AIX, or even Windows. Maybe I will want to watch it in 50 years (once the copyright has expired) on an operating system that has not been thought of yet. Will you let me? Please?

    By the way, thanks for reading this excessively long comment. I am really pleased that I can communicate with someone in the BBC and say what I want, rather than what some survey thinks I should be allowed to comment on!

  39. At 11:19 PM on 07 Nov 2007, Manfred Morgner wrote:

    Now I understand your problem. Please let me add two different alternatives to the BBC way of dealing with this kind of legal quests.

    (1) Do not publish such content on the net. BBC is a powerfull station. You may start a positive movement in the information industry and save money for the BBC.

    (2) Start each restricted video with a text sequence (like your DVDs) that informs the audience about the legal situation.


    Does anyone (BBC or your content providers) realy believe, that DRM protects from the violation of copyright? The only way to protect anything from illegal copies is, to not produce it.

    A normal user will not violate the copyright and the ones who do so, will not be stopped by any DRM. But using free software, free document formats, free information will suppport a law abiding behavior of people. Because, in this case, being law abiding pays off.

  40. At 01:50 AM on 08 Nov 2007, MJ Ray wrote:

    #14 Andrew Oakley, "The BBC does NOT distribute content via Sky. It distributes content via the Astra 28 East satellite system. You do not need a Sky subscription to watch the BBC using digital satellite."

    Sadly, the BBC distributes its programme guide on Astra 28e only in a format effectively only works on Sky-brand decoders, not as the standard DVB-SI Event Information Tables which are used by the German broadcasters and others (and BBC on freeview?). So people with non-Sky satellite hard disk recorders use various ugly kludges to get a working programme guide.

    I have been told that this is because Sky encode the Service Information stream for the BBC and it's part of the reason why BBC broadcasts 6 or so copies of BBC-1 on each transponder and so we don't have space for Ceefax any more, but I don't know whether any of that's true.

    Why doesn't BBC broadcast a full standard programme guide and help to open up the receiver market? Will all Freesat receivers license the same programme guide as Sky? Will independent hybrid internet+satellite devices ever be welcome to view BBC content? More questions than answers, sadly.

  41. At 08:55 PM on 08 Nov 2007, Colin Templeman wrote:

    @xbehave
    At 1:02 PM on 07 Nov 2007,Xbehave wrote:
    "LAMP can stand for anything including
    # LAMP, where the P is for Perl or Python"

    Yes I realise it can also feasibly stand for Llamas Ate My Primrose. My point was when referring to a LAMP server, the 'P' *usually* refers to PHP.
    ref:
    http://isp.webopedia.com/TERM/L/LAMP.html

  42. At 11:15 PM on 08 Nov 2007, Dave wrote:

    Hi Ashley,

    Somehow, I feel that there is a point somewhere here that we haven't explained in a way you've understood.

    In my opinion, various comments you've made do not stack up.

    Linux users
    I use Linux. I prefer it to other systems, I find I can work more effectively, and don't suffer from the same breakages or problems I get on Windows. I expect the BBC to have a sensible provision for Linux users, but I do appreciate that you cannot always target 100% of your users. However, I think Linux is a sufficient and growing base of users - and not one you should dismiss as irrelevant.


    Adoption of DRM
    Everyone is nervous about DRM, but your stated reasons for adopting it in these instances do not stack up to logical scrutiny. Firstly, all of the content is available in high quality non-encrypted digital formats when broadcast over freeview (and other networks). I have a computer with two freeview capture cards, that records BBC content, and stores it for future viewing. I don't pirate these files, and use them only privately - but if I was interested in piracy I already have access to your content.

    DRM won't keep your content secure. Even your BBC news portal provides information about the iplayer drm being cracked, and name checks the application that can remove the DRM restrictions: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6944830.stm This mimics the impact that DRM has traditionally had on content security - none. When updates to DRM systems are made, someone cracks it and the new version can be attacked. This is happening everywhere DRM is deployed - DVD / BlueRay / iTunes / iPlayer. DRM in any guise has been show to be ineffective at restricting content. (you only need look at the iTunes shift away from DRM to see this in action)

    For people that want to rip you off, the genie is already out of the bottle - and DRM on internet downloads won't protect you or other content owners in the slightest.


    Promotion of a single monopoly product
    Monopolies are created when there is sufficient mass behind a single product or category. By the BBC adopting Microsoft DRM and WMP technologies, they are encouraging other industry players to also adopt this single technology stack - which is tied to a single proprietary application and provider. In doing so, you are preventing others from competing in the market, or allowing others to enter the market. Your technology is distributed in a standalone application which does not depend on existing media technology on the target computers - there is no reason why your media player and DRM solution needed to come from Microsoft, and from objective analysis their product offers no more guarantees than other suppliers.

    Adopting a DRM solution based on a proprietary application ties you, your customers and the downloaded content to that single supplier for ever, and in this instance promotes the adoption of a product already identified by the EU as having gaind the traction it has so far at least in part from abuse of a monopoly.


    Open standards
    The BBC is a public service organisation. It's special and unique because of the License fee. The BBC has an opportunity (and potentially obligation) to adopt open applications and open standards. These encourage competition and support universal access across all license fee payers.

    ----------------

    This has been a much longer post than intended, but in summary I am saying that I think you have been poorly advised about the size of your linux audience, the impact of adopting DRM and the advantages of Microsoft WMP and DRM.

    The BBC has an opportunity with iPlayer to (as it has in the past) stand up for common sense and the cost-efficient was to provide a service to your customers, without introducing unnecessary complexity or un-justified restrictions.

  43. At 11:16 PM on 08 Nov 2007, M Murphy wrote:

    [quote]
    Given the level of investment poured into the iPlayer platform, I suspect the BBC is now committed to staying with it. Like many Linux users I am not happy about this, but I know that expensive decisions involving a commitment to closed platforms are not easy to reverse.
    [/quote]

    Nothing like a quote to match a quote:

    [quote name="TinkerTailorSoldierSpy"
    author="John LeCarre"]
    Have you ever sold a fake picture? The more it costs the less the buyer is inclined to question its authenticity.
    [/quote]

  44. At 01:30 AM on 10 Nov 2007, Carl wrote:

    I have just filed an official complaint with the BBC regarding the iPlayer and all this DRM nonsense and the Microsoft Windows only platform.

    Please, I encourage everyone here to do the same, if you already haven't. We fund the BBC through our licence payments, they have to listen to us. What they have done with the iPlayer is fundamentally wrong and we have to get this message through as strongly and as clearly as we possibly can.

  45. At 02:35 PM on 12 Nov 2007, Dave Crossland wrote:

    James Cridland wrote "free-to-the-user alternatives to Ogg Vorbis exist on all major platforms" but he sadly doesn't distinguish between free-as-in-freedom (ogg vorbis) and free-as-in-icecream (free-to-the-user alternatives).

    When people talk about 'free software' and 'free formats' they refer to the definition laid out by the Free Software Foundation in the 1980s, at http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

  46. At 10:57 PM on 12 Nov 2007, James Cridland wrote:

    In reference to Backstager Dave Crossland's comment, above (45)... he's wrong.

    I specifically distinguished between "free-to-the-user" and "free-as-in-freedom". I did this in the simple and hopefully clear way of using the phrase "free-to-the-user", specifically to avoid this kind of argument.

    I hope that, while this isn't clear to Dave (clearly - he's spent three emails trying to convince me I said what I didn't say), this is clear to everyone else. Of course, I don't claim that Real, for example, is free-as-in-freedom; it's not. (Nor, like Windows, is it free-to-the-broadcaster either).

    I'm limbering up to my first post here, where, doubtless, I'll claim that the sky is blue - and then be lambasted by people who will claim that, on the contrary, it's blue, and how dare I claim it's green... (grin)

  47. At 01:34 AM on 13 Nov 2007, MJ Ray wrote:

    By the way, I don't think I've mentioned before that I'd be happy if the BBC supported open, free-as-in-freedom standards, whether it's Vorbis or Dirac or whatever, and left application choice to the users, instead of the iPlayer's equivalent of "you must watch this on an LG-brand TV".

  48. At 04:12 PM on 20 Nov 2007, Cy wrote:

    "Are you saying that for all content where there are no "rightsholders conditions", such as all the content produced by the BBC"

    You're kidding right? The only content the BBC would legally own all rights in was one with no script music or actors in. Just because the BBC makes it in house doesn't mean the actors, musicians , writers, designers etc. won't have continuing rights in the current legal climate.

  49. At 12:13 AM on 24 Nov 2007, Linux User wrote:

    It's reassuring to know that the BBC is listening to the wider open source community.

    As the quality and usability of the Linux desktop continue jump forward in leaps and bounds more end users will start using it.

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