BBCHD and DRM: A Response to Cory Doctorow
The issues surrounding HD and DRM were fuelled further this week by Cory Doctrow in his inaccurate assessment of our proposals in Wednesday's MediaGuardian.
This isn't the time to further discuss the DRM debate, or speculate on the relative merits of copy protection but I do want to re-state the BBC's position, and correct some of the inaccuracies in that piece.
The BBC does get caught up in this debate from time to time. The BBC is a content producer, a licensee, and a distributor and we have a commitment to make our content as widely available and accessible as we possibly can to our audiences. We also want to be able to secure a proportion of high-value content from external sources to ensure our channels remain varied and attractive to licence fee payers.
As I stated in my last post, this includes our commitment to launching an HD service on Freeview, which creates both technical and licensing complexities. We believe we have come up with a solution to this challenge.
Without wanting to negate Cory's contribution to this debate, he got a number of major points wrong in his analysis and in particular there are five key areas that need clear correction.
1) DVB CPCM "fell apart after years of acrimonious discussion"
No. This is an agreed standard that is now available to the marketplace (though completely unconnected to this debate).
2) The BBC's proposals will "freeze out" British entrepreneurs, "increase the cost" of HDTV in the UK, "limiting competition"
We are working on the standard with the UK's Digital Television Group (DTG). The DTG's purpose is to agree standards with the consumer electronics sector. Consumer electronics companies generally operate in global markets, and by nature, shared standards mean a level playing field for all in the sector. Further, the fact that you have a properly certified standard through a respected body means consumers have the assurance that the product will work, as well as a shared brand to promote the standard (in this case Freeview HD) - which creates scale. This is good for consumers, and is not just a point of view: it's proven in the case of Freeview and virtually any other market where economies of scale exist.
This is not how the DTLA works and is a misrepresentation of the DTLA's role in this process. The DTLA is responding to our requirements - not vice versa. With access to its technology, consumers will be able to share high definition content across home networks. With the consultation that is going through Ofcom, it stretches credibility to suggest that they are being sidelined in this process.
4) We "create a mountain of e-waste" and "break existing equipment"
As I stated in my previous post, this is simply incorrect. Standard definition outputs from HD receivers will be unaffected, so existing DVD and VHS recorders can be used to record all HD programmes in standard definition. SD Freeview boxes remain completely unaffected, the SD signal won't change. This is about new Freeview HD devices. Note that DAB radios, mobile phones, and TV remote controls will also (happily) remain unaffected.
5) The BBC's "cosy negotiation" with rightholders and "secretive consultations" amounts to us neglecting our responsibilities and a desire to slip this process through quietly
This point we take most seriously. Above all else, we are a public organisation funded by the Licence Fee and have committed ourselves to greater transparency and openness because we believe that this is an obligation we have to our audience.
The fact is that discussions with both the DTG and Ofcom about how we solve this issue have been ongoing for months. We have consulted a wide range of stakeholders, and haven't tabled these proposals lightly. Further, we sent Ofcom a formal letter with every intention to undertake this open, public consultation. None of these actions demonstrate an attempt to conceal our intentions.
Perhaps Cory does know all this, but is just unhappy that we won't fight for his cause. However our focus is not to champion causes - it's meeting our public service remit which means serving our many audiences as best, as fairly, and as openly as we can.
Graham Plumb is Head of Distribution Technology, BBC.