BBC slammed for Microsoft lock-in

The Open Source Consortium (OSC) has slammed the BBC after the news site announced that it plans to lock online TV viewers to Microsoft Windows. The BBC already has an agreement with Real over use of its RealPlayer software for radio broadcasting. The announcement of a tie in with Microsoft will be a boost to the company's visibility as the company is heavily investing in online TV for its worldwide audience. The OSC believes this is anti-competitive, and would be in breach of the broadcaster's charter by using public funds to develop and promote the service.

OSC chief executive Iain Roberts said: "Our members are competing hard in a fast-moving market and winning new customers every day. Seeing their licence fee going to advertise one of their largest competitors is not acceptable, especially from the BBC which has a duty to be unbiased. We want the BBC to reject any moves that restrict consumer choice."

News source: vnunet.com

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45 Comments

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It reminds me how people have their site blocking IE-users from viewing their sites and force them to use Firefox~

Bear in mind that every TV owner in the UK has to pay a tax which funds the BBC. The DRM is there to prevent users from sharing the programmes on p2p networks for non-UK residents. Considering there's a separate service for non-UK residents, I think this is reasonable.

Clearly, nobody here has a clue!

The DRM thing is not limiting what UK citizens can see, it is PREVENTING non-UK citizens (such as myself) from viewing content broadcast over the Internet. DRM allows geographic and time content blocking. In other words, I will either have to reconfigure my XP to be using UK-English all over the place (including time) to mascarade as an UK user, or I must use a reliable non-XP machine that supports the same DRM requirements of locking non-UK citizens out.

Simple. Americans are NOT privy to BBC content, and this decision reinforces such.

The BBC is funded through a tax called the TV license which every UK household must pay if they own a TV. Why should Americans have access to BBC programmes for free and without ads, when British and Irish people have to fund the programmes through a tax?

The BBC will be launching a service for non-UK residents where their programmes are supported by ads. You'll get that and you should be happy we give you that much.

kronix2 said,
The BBC is funded through a tax called the TV license which every UK household must pay if they own a TV. Why should Americans have access to BBC programmes for free and without ads, when British and Irish people have to fund the programmes through a tax?

The BBC will be launching a service for non-UK residents where their programmes are supported by ads. You'll get that and you should be happy we give you that much.

Hmm, arrogant much? I didn't notice the OP suggesting that non-UK residents *should* have access to all the BBC's content... you're picking a fight where there was none, and doing so in a singularly up-yer-own-arse manner. Kudos.

To the OP: I suspect switching your Windows settings won't help much. The checks are probably based on your IP address, like those that prevent software containing SSL (or other strong encryption tech) being directly downloaded from the US because of export restrictions.

Well, the BBC have been aware of the "lock in" they were creating for ages. I've spoken to various people who work at the BBC over the last couple of years, some of who own Macs, most of whom are techie people and they've all said that the BBC doesn't care about the fact that they're locking people in and are ignoring the minority of licence payers.

Well, I imagine there will be a lot of complaints once the software is released later this year, if it doesn't have Mac support.

I'm generally very supportive of the BBC, but this is one thing that annoys me!

If they would only do away with RealPlayer completely I would be happier. I am no fan of DRM, but people need to quit whining about their decision. They have you in mind Linux users, so don't lose your head as it's only tv.

I dont see any problem now reading more on it.

With the BBC stating that Windows Media Player 10 with XP (and Vista I assume) are the only systems at present that support the required DRM and that when alternatives become available they will use them to ensure every OS is useable.

So all those Linux users that want it badly, why dont you code a decent DRM format / system for your OS?

Don't agree with DRM, well you got no choice at present but thats another issue.

BBC says DRM is needed, and only Microsoft to date have the DRM thats required. Seems they had no choice and Apple users can only complain at Apple and Linux users better start coding.

The BBC Trust made a statement on the 31-01-2007

In this statement, the following was said:
"Platform-agnostic approach: As proposed, the TV catch-up service on the internet relies on Microsoft technology for the digital rights management (DRM) framework. The Trust will require the BBC Executive to adopt a platform-agnostic approach within a reasonable time frame. This requires the BBC to develop an alternative DRM framework to enable users of other technology, for example, Apple and Linux, to access the on-demand services."
Source: BBC Trust

My question is: What do the BBC class as a reasonable time frame?

My other question is: Why have the OSC neglected to take this into Consideration before blasting the BBC - If the BBC had straight up said "No, we refuse to make it compatible with anything except a new version of Windows", then yeah, I could understand it, and being an OSX user myself, and a British License Payer myself, I would be furious ... But this is not the case. If I also had to buy software to watch it too, I also would not be happy.. If they provided a free Codec to watch the content, then yes, I would be happy.

I think VNU (the source) have got confused too.. what the hell has it got to do with BT?
"The Trust decided that BT's proposed iPlayer service would be of value to the public as patterns of media consumption shift from linear broadcast to on-demand viewing." LOL

As for what someone said above about watching free TV - I really doubt you will be able to - They will probably adopt the same technology as Sky, where if you aren't a registered user (i.e. hold an account - whether that be a t.v. license [with a unique ID on the license], or a viewing account), you can't get access to the service.

Linux community wants, everything in the world is FREE. they just don't want to understand this fact. thats the problem.

You misunderstand what is being asked. Sure some people want everything free and open, however that isn't going to work for everything. What I want is to be able to use the platform of my choice to watch what I have already paid for. The problem is Windows users would get the same thing for free (essentially as they have already purchased a copy of Windows). If the BBC were to produce their own player and charge for it I would be more than happy to pay, providing they charged all platforms. I would be even happier if they produced a player for each platform and gave it away free, though wouldn't everyone

Oh noes, the OSC is mad. FFS.

Mac OSX can view the content, Windows can view the content. So who gives a **** about 0.006% of home users otherwise.

If you were part of the 0.006% users who were FORCED to pay for this service you would be a little annoyed. That is like saying the 0.006% of users with a specific make of TV can't watch BBC channels yet still charge them for a TV license.

SiDEBURNS said,

Your NOT forced to pay for the TV license.

Please show me a way to own a TV in the UK without having to pay for a TV license. Sadly you can't. Not only do I not watch BBC I do not even have an ariel on my house and only use Sky (which I pay for separately). Ergo I AM forced to pay for a license which I do not benefit from. Should I choose not to own a TV (which I did for several months a few years ago) I can avoid paying the license (and rightly so) however I was accused of breaking the law twice because "everyone owns a TV".

SiDEBURNS said,

Your NOT forced to pay for the TV license.


You are if you want to watch TV in the UK, unless your TV/computer runs off its own power supply (ie, you can't watch TV on your laptop if it's plugged in at the same time)

Them's the rules...

Septimus said,
Oh noes, the OSC is mad. FFS.

Mac OSX can view the content, Windows can view the content. So who gives a **** about 0.006% of home users otherwise.

No OS/x can't play the content because of the DRM. This means it 100% windows only.

deadmonkey said,

Please show me a way to own a TV in the UK without having to pay for a TV license. Sadly you can't. Not only do I not watch BBC I do not even have an ariel on my house and only use Sky (which I pay for separately). Ergo I AM forced to pay for a license which I do not benefit from. Should I choose not to own a TV (which I did for several months a few years ago) I can avoid paying the license (and rightly so) however I was accused of breaking the law twice because "everyone owns a TV".

You are allowed to own a TV as long as you don't use it to receive a tv signal (ie plug an aerial into it).
If you have a tv just for use with a dvd player or console, then thats perfectly fine and you need not pay the fee.

Sky is a different matter, as you're still receiving the channels that are payed for by having a TV license (the BBC ones).

IF YOU ARE GOING TO POST ARTICLES MAKE SURE THE ARTICLES KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT.

Why must this site post articles that bash windows and not check that the article is actually acurate.

this is what the site states

"In respect of the seven-day catch-up over the internet service, the files would require DRM
to ensure that they were appropriately restricted in terms of time and geographic
consumption. The only system that currently provides this security is Windows Media 10
and above. Further, the only comprehensively deployed operating system that currently
supports Windows Media Player 10 and above is the Windows XP operating system. As a
result of these DRM requirements the proposed BBC iPlayer download manager element
therefore requires Windows Media Player 10 and Windows XP. This means the service
would be unavailable to a minority of consumers who either do not use Microsoft or do not
have an up-to-date Microsoft operating system. However, over time, technology
improvements are likely to enable even more efficient methods of delivery. Further, it is our
understanding the BBC Executive are working towards the iPlayer download manager being
able to function on other operating systems.
"

The thing restricting the content is the drm, if a linux player provides the required drm it can be used.

they are not restricting it to windows. Its just that media player 10 has the required drm

If you are going to post an article bashing things make sure the article is actually acurate

DRM is part of the bigger picture here. Considering all tv owners in the UK have paid for the content I fail to see why any DRM is required. There is no DRM on my VCR or my DVD recorder. Why should there be on anything the BBC supplies? It is accessible to everyone who has a tv license, which is (or should be) everyone who has a tv in the UK. You can argue the case that it will stop people from other countries using the content however they will get it anyway so why implement pointless protection systems to content everyone in the UK is entitled to?

My point is though is the bbc is not LOCKING people into windows. This is just lies . The bbc clearly states that if other players can play windows media streams and can handle the drm then they can be used no matter what operating system.

majortom1981 said,
The bbc clearly states that if other players can play windows media streams and can handle the drm then they can be used no matter what operating system.

And that isn't locking people to Windows? I'm sure Microsoft would happily license the necessary information to a company making a player for Linux

majortom1981 said,
My point is though is the bbc is not LOCKING people into windows. This is just lies . The bbc clearly states that if other players can play windows media streams and can handle the drm then they can be used no matter what operating system.

The problem is that Microsoft are not all that friendly with how they license their formats. For this to be implemented on another platform a company would have to pay royalties to Microsoft. Why should you have to pay twice for something?

edgrale said,

And that isn't locking people to Windows? I'm sure Microsoft would happily license the necessary information to a company making a player for Linux ;)


No they won't. They'll license the WMA/WMV formats, but when it comes to the DRM, they won't license any general computing platform. Linspire tried already, but were refused (although they did get license the regular WMA/WMV formats). So by using MS's DRM, your only option is Windows.

majortom1981 said,
Why must this site post articles that bash windows and not check that the article is actually acurate.

Microsoft fanbois sure are paranoid. Where does it bash windows? It is 'bashing' the BBC...

The Bloated Broadcasting Coorporation should open it up to all.

The will send two kozzers and a turnip around your house with a search warrant to check for a TV or receiver.

I use windows and pay my tv licence monthly, so other users that don't use windows and pay a tv licence should get the same service.

I think its a hell of a lot better than what it was say 2 years ago... 2 years ago we were forced to install Real Player to watch anything on the site. Now at least we can get videos in Windows Media as well as Real Player, though live audio streams (radio) still needs Real Player!

If the video streams are DRM free I dont see why alternative media players on Linux or Mac couldnt work with Windows Media. And if they cant to be honest BBC has a job to support the majority and not force spyware upon its users (real player). Id sooner them support 95% of the population than to infect every PC with a spyware driven junk of a media player.

The problem is when 100% of people are paying supporting 95% isn't good enough. I use the Sony TV analogy when talking about this with friends because it is exactly the same thing, just with a different distribution method. Their system should be accessible to all who have to pay the license fee, not just those using Microsoft Windows. OS X and Linux are mature and widely used platforms, their market share is small however it is unfair to deny a paying user access to something because they do not use the most popular platform. For a non-mandatory service I do not care what format they use as I am not forced to use it, however with the BBC I am forced. I cannot opt out of paying my tv license regardless of if I watch anything from the BBC or not.

Doesn't anyone find it odd that when BBC did this with Real Player the OSC didn't seem to care. I mean if they are truly for open standards then they need to be for open standards for every piece of software out there, otherwise they are just a bunch of Microsoft haters blowing a lot of hot air.

It's not like Apple doesn't have a dominating lead over it's rivals in the MP3 market and Apple has been very upfront that they want to lock you in with iTunes, the iPod and now the iPhone. If the OSC is really that credible on the subject of open standards then they should be yelling about Apple too. Otherwise they should just sit down and shut up!

I agree with the OSC on this. My TV license allows me to watch the BBC on any TV I choose, not just ones by Sony or Toshiba. Their online service should offer the same and not trap me in to one format. Using an open format is what the BBC should be using. Getting into bed with Microsoft is a bad move for us license payers. I would rather not have an online service than have one which forces me to use one particular system. Either that or make my TV license non-mandatory and run the BBC as a business.

Yet in a few years time if you dont have a digtal tv or a digtal STB it wont matter what make your TV is because it wont support the new transmisson format.


you have to relise that windows is the dominant OS, like it or hate it thats just the way things are, so thats what they are going to support.

dragon2611 said,
Yet in a few years time if you dont have a digtal tv or a digtal STB it wont matter what make your TV is because it wont support the new transmisson format.

Yet today if you don't have an analog tuner it won't matter what make your TV is. :)
It's the same thing already, but that's more like an transport protocol, like IPv4 vs. IPv6 if you would like a somewhat good computer analogy.

Seems fair, it costs money to use multiple providers, if one is better than another for some reason why not use them.

Better for who? The BBC or the consumer? Surly an open system which will work on anything is better for the consumer? I am sure you wouldn't feel the same if you could only watch BBC shows on Sony TVs because Sony and BBC have a nice little deal? Didn't think so, so why are you so comfortable with this arrangement now? Internet TV is the future, the decisions we make now will shape how internet based tv grows. If we allow Microsoft to effectively own it now it will be extremely difficult to move away from this in the future. Using an open format is essential for the natural growth of a system such as internet tv, it allows people to experiment with different ways of distributing content without having to pay huge license fees or be scared of law suits for reverse engineering the format.

It supports OSX through the yet to be released version of Flip4Mac.

*nix isn't used by every day Joes at home. So no one cares.

Septimus said,
It supports OSX through the yet to be released version of Flip4Mac.

*nix isn't used by every day Joes at home. So no one cares.

Great. OS X users get to pay more to watch something they have already paid for. That is fair, or is the BBC going to cover the cost of Flip4Mac for all OS X using TV license payers in the UK?

I don't think it's fair, they pay money to watch TV in the UK and now they're asked to:
1) Pay money to get the platform to view the content that they've already paid for
2) Have to go to the trouble to configure a virtual machine (VMware) under Linux or to dual boot Windows

If the BBC gets revenue from public funds then the public should have the right to choose how they view that content.

deadmonkey said,

Great. OS X users get to pay more to watch something they have already paid for. That is fair, or is the BBC going to cover the cost of Flip4Mac for all OS X using TV license payers in the UK?

flip4mac is a free player... :P