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The Media Media

BBC's Open Player Claims Not Followed Through 311

Posted by timothy
from the working-on-it-working-on-it dept.
ruphus13 writes "BBC's iPlayer was originally built on Microsoft's DRM-protected technology, and has never really been liked by folks like the FSF. The BBC is trying to play nice, though, recently claiming, 'the BBC has always been a strong advocate and driver of open industry standards. Without these standards, TV and radio broadcasting would simply not function. I believe that the time has come for the BBC to start adopting open standards such as H.264 and AAC for our audio and video services on the web.' This article argues that actions speak louder than words, and this is where the BBC falls short. 'The fact that both AAC and H.264 are encumbered with patent licenses that make their distribution under free licenses problematic flies in the face of this definition. It's good to see a major organization like the BBC switching from closely held secretive codecs to more widespread and documented ones. But it would be even better to see them throw their considerable weight behind some truly open formats.'"
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BBC's Open Player Claims Not Followed Through

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  • by sustik (90111) on Friday August 15, 2008 @01:10AM (#24611431)

    h.264 patent licencing applies to devices (and even that is low cost):

    http://www.dspr.com/www/technology/technology.htm#H.264 [dspr.com] Licensing Fees

    • by jhol13 (1087781)

      Besides, H.264 and AAC are probably the most widely supported formats.

      It is recommended, among others, by EFFI (Electronic Foundation Finland, I could not find similar recommendation by EFF) as it is supported in most platforms (OS/CPU/...) and there are GPL implementations.

    • by nmg196 (184961)

      But you can't patent *software* or algorithms, so how is this relevant? (not here in the UK anyway)

  • What about Dirac? (Score:5, Informative)

    by siDDis (961791) on Friday August 15, 2008 @01:10AM (#24611435)

    Which is developed by BBC, a cutting edge video standard on the level with H.264 and is free as in speech? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirac_(codec) [wikipedia.org]

    Wasn't it supposed to be used in Beijing Olympics?

  • Open, or Untested? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GaryPatterson (852699) on Friday August 15, 2008 @01:16AM (#24611459)

    The Ogg/Vorbis format is often touted as completely free and unencumbered by patents, but is it? Is Dirac?

    Have any free formats ever been taken to court and won, proving their status as truly free? Or are they 'under the radar' at the moment, not worth testing in court because they've not reached critical mass yet?

    I ask because I actually don't know. I'd like to see truly free formats, but I'm not sure if they are, or if people just think they are.

    • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:05AM (#24611713) Journal

      The Ogg/Vorbis format is often touted as completely free and unencumbered by patents, but is it? Is Dirac?

      This is the British Broadcasting Corporation so yes they are both completely patent free because there are no software patents allowed in the UK. It may be a problem for those in the US but why should the BBC worry about that?

      • by Teun (17872) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:29AM (#24611821) Homepage
        Exactly, there is no problem to worry about.

        As the BBC must have a competent legal department I really wonder what the real reason for their reluctance to use certain codex is.

        Personally I'm even more pissed off the Dutch public broadcasters have elected to use some Microsoft product called Silverlight in addition to the existing .wmv streams.

        And that with taxpayers money!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          It's worth noting that if you download one of the H.264 files intended for the iPhone from iPlayer and take a look at the headers, you can see that the audio track was encoded with libfaac, a GPL'd implementation of Dolby's patented algorithms used in encoding AAC. Possibly the BBC has bought a license to use this from Dolby (although, if they have, they'd have got Dolby's reference implementation of the algorithms too, so they'd probably use that instead), but it seems more likely that they've already dec
      • by lpontiac (173839)

        This is the British Broadcasting Corporation so yes they are both completely patent free because there are no software patents allowed in the UK.

        In which case, from the BBC's perspective, surely H.264 is unencumbered?

      • by jeevesbond (1066726) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:45AM (#24611911) Homepage

        [...] there are no software patents allowed in the UK.

        That's what I was thinking, but upon checking found that a recent High Court decision might allow software patents after all. There's certainly a lot of confusion over the subject and an apparent disparity between the UK Patent Office and the European Patent Office. See the IPKat blog [blogspot.com]:

        [...] the UK-IPO has highlighted Mr Justice Patten's decision of today [...] to overturn the UK-IPO's decision to refuse an application by Symbian, on the grounds that it consisted solely of a computer program.

        The judge drew attention to the split between the attitudes of the UK-IPO and the EPO, since the EPO has already allowed the patent to be granted.

        The blog post mostly echos the press release from the UK Patent Office [ipo.gov.uk], who plan to appeal due to the judge failing to apply the Aerotel/Macrossan test.

        So it does seem that, medium to long-term, the BBC might have made a big mistake.

        As for software patents in general, I believe the only way to truly be rid of the scourge is to get the US to declare software as unpatentable. The US government, and the lobbyists from its companies have tremendous power and influence around the world, and they are pushing hard for software patentability. Even though it's obviously a bad idea, and most software developers are strongly opposed to it, more [michaeldolan.com] countries [nosoftwarepatents.com] seem to be considering it. No real sources for this last paragraph as it's only my opinion, take it or leave it. :)

        • by bloobloo (957543)

          Software in general may become patentable in the UK, but that doesn't mean that H.264 in particular would be.

      • by Wolfbone (668810)

        This is the British Broadcasting Corporation so yes they are both completely patent free because there are no software patents allowed in the UK.

        That's what they want you to believe but search the databases and you'll see that even the BBC itself has software patents granted by the UKIPO.

    • by jonwil (467024) on Friday August 15, 2008 @05:55AM (#24612739)

      Whilst its impossible (given the broken nature of patent law) to declare OGG Vorbis 100% free, when OGG Vorbis support was added to WinAmp, the legal team at AOL Time Warner did a through due diligence to look for anything that could be an issue for the format. If the legal team of one of the largest media companies on the planet says the format is free, thats about as good as its ever going to get.

  • Dirac Codec (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sorry to post as AC but I've lost a domain and can't get my password back (yet).

    The Beeb have been toying with this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirac_(codec) (many links on page) since 2004. The biggest problem it has is a lack of optimisation now slowly being solved. It is supposed to be patent un-encumbered, open source and about as "free" as software from a large, commercial organisation is likely to get.

    If they were _serious_ about this maybe they should take on some C/asm coders under contract (nudge

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The BBC supported OGG Vorbis long before any other mainstream news organization did. I'd take them at their word on this one.

  • by rmdir -r * (716956) on Friday August 15, 2008 @01:31AM (#24611545)
    Considering they bankrolled the development of a brand new, completely open codec, a reference implementation of which is released under the MIT license.

    And considering that they only froze the format this year, the fact that they haven't rolled it out to consumers is not exactly surprising- these things need baking time

    Seriously, I think they've proven their commitment to patent-unencumbered formats...

    • by EdIII (1114411) *

      I was not aware that they were developing their own codec. In any case, h.264 and AAC have pretty darn reasonable licenses. The patent owners want wide adoption, not to gouge people.

      I personally don't care about their commitment to patent-unencumbered formats, I CARE about their proven commitment to not using DRM.

  • I'm yet to see a single clip on BBC's website. They insist on running an ad from one of the major ad sites (might be doubleclick, I'm don't remember) before any clip loads. Since I have blocked most ad sites in my hosts file, the BBC clips never load.

    As far as I'm concerned they could very well broadcast them in smoke signal format.

    • by stevelup (445596) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:07AM (#24611723)

      There are no ads whatsoever on BBC iPlayer or any other page on bbc.co.uk.

      I have no idea what you are talking about?

    • by Martz (861209)

      The only thing the BBC directly advertises is themselves.

      Short previews of their shows, or informative adverts on how to upgrade to digital TV etc. No doubleclick adverts, so I figure you must be confusing the BBC iPlayer with break.com or something.

      • by c.r.o.c.o (123083)

        so I figure you must be confusing the BBC iPlayer with break.com or something.

        You must be very easily confused, since the last time I checked, the BBC site looks nothing like break.com. As we speak I have the same BBC page loaded in Seamonkey on my desktop which is fully configured and on my laptop where I am yet to modify the hosts file.

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/7560995.stm [bbc.co.uk]

        On the laptop it plays just fine, however on my desktop it just sits doing nothing. The status bar displays "Transferi

        • by Martz (861209)

          To be fair, I've been informed by another poster that the BBC delivers adverts to IP ranges outside of the UK, so perhaps I stand corrected over if the BBC advertises. It certainly doesn't to the UK audience, but it makes sense to when dealing with non UK residents.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jez9999 (618189)

      Are you, by any chance, complaining? If so, you're just another freeloading idiot that expects somebody else to serve you completely free content. Sorry, but capitalism doesn't work that way. Moron.

  • Stop Complaining (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nymz (905908)
    The BBC iPlayer, like Apple, is a company that is free to use DRM, just as you are free to choose not to pay for it. The same is true for political bias. Some news is biased to the Left, and others are to the Right. You are free to purchase publications that lean either way. Stop acting like the government is taxing you, and then corruptly using it to support politically biased news, or a locked in DRM scheme.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by willy_me (212994)

      A bit different for the BBC. I am not from the UK, but I believe that tax dollars pay for much of what is produced by the BBC. So actually you are not free to choose not to pay for it because the government is taxing you.

      This is the entire reason for putting the content up on the web for free in the first place. The BBC is not trying to maximize their profit - they realize that UK citizens have already paid for the content. (Note that those outside the UK are not allowed to see it.) Being government ru

      • Re:Stop Complaining (Score:5, Informative)

        by Spad (470073) <slashdot@spad.YEATSco.uk minus poet> on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:29AM (#24611827) Homepage

        The BBC is *not* government run. They are publically funded, but the government has no direct control over their output.

      • by Xiaran (836924)
        You are close but slightly incorrect there. The BBC is funded from a licensing fee which you only have to pay if you own a TV. That said if you do not own a TV(like I have in the past) you still get a *lot* of hassle from them as they dont believe you dont own a TV and there is no way to prove that to them. But I still didnt have to pay when I was TVless.
        • by jez9999 (618189)

          That said if you do not own a TV(like I have in the past) you still get a *lot* of hassle from them as they dont believe you dont own a TV and there is no way to prove that to them.

          The biggest mistake most people make is to let TVL worry them.

          Hint: Ignore *ALL* of their letters, and slam the door in their inspectors' faces (if they ever turn up). 99.99999% of the time, you will be without trouble. The remainder of the time, they won't get too far in court if you DON'T own a TV.

        • My father - who has never had a TV in the house - finally got them to stop sending letters when he asked them to send them in large print as he is registered blind.

      • by IBBoard (1128019) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:40AM (#24611883) Homepage

        It's not tax pounds (which would be taken out of your pay) but a license fee that you have to pay if you own any equipment that is capable of receiving a TV signal (e.g. TV, computer, certain mobile devices, etc) or IIRC a radio signal. If you don't have either of those then you don't need a TV license and you don't need to pay anything. If you do have one then it's £12 per month (~£140 per year), which IMO is a bargain for quality TV without adverts, especially when people are willing to pay £30+ per month for the drivel on satellite/cable complete with large ad breaks.

        It is true that they have a mandate to be open to anyone with a license, though. Other than buying equipment, there isn't supposed to be any restriction on who can access the content and so operating systems etc aren't supposed to stop people accessing things.

        • It's not tax pounds (which would be taken out of your pay) but a license fee that you have to pay if you own any equipment that is capable of receiving a TV signal (e.g. TV, computer, certain mobile devices, etc) or IIRC a radio signal.

          So it is a tax on TV ownership that is hypothecated to fund the BBC. It is still a tax and public money.

          • by Teun (17872)
            And therefore it's called a Public Broadcaster, a system that makes most Europeans, especially the Brits, very happy.

            But It is certainly no tax, it's sooner a usage/consumption fee.

            I do think the British collection system is silly, the trouble involved in the checking of the licenses is a great burden in a time where nearly everyone can receive these programs.

            In the Netherlands this was realised years ago and the licence became part of the general tax.

            Tough luck for the oddball that does not see TV or l

        • by leenks (906881)

          It is tax pounds, and since when has anything other than Income Tax and National Insurance come out of your pay?

          There are plenty of taxes you pay directly or indirectly when you buy or use something, and the licence fee is essentially a tax on using your television - just like road tax when you drive your car on the roads.

          I agree with you on everything else though - the BBC produces an incredible amount of quality programming, especially now they have the extra digital channels, and I should be able to easi

        • So basically, by putting their stuff on the web, they're able to force payment from anyone with a computer, without actually producing more content? Do I have that right?

          That's gonna be one hell of a sweet scam if its a per device fee instead of per person.

      • by MadJo (674225)

        Yup, the BBC is a network funded through taxes.
        But the main currency in the UK is not the dollar but the pound. :)

    • The BBC iPlayer, like Apple, is a company that is free to use DRM, just as you are free to choose not to pay for it.

      Untrue. If I want to watch *any* TV, I am required to pay the licence fee, whether or not I choose to (or am able to) use iPlayer.

      Additionally, the BBC has a mandate to provide a platform agnostic system, and when the BBC Trust approved iPlayer, making it platform agnostic was one of the terms of the approval. The BBC ignored this requirement and the BBC Trust pulled them up on it. The BBC

  • by fyoder (857358) * on Friday August 15, 2008 @01:45AM (#24611625) Homepage Journal

    I had some email correspondence with a BBC tech shortly after they'd experimented with streaming ogg vorbis. He said they'd concluded that it wasn't sufficiently "scalable". I've never implemented anything on a scale like BBC World Service, so I don't know if there's anything to that or not, but perhaps there are slash dotters with the experience to comment.

    When a lot of people complained about CBC pimping for Microsoft they set up streaming ogg vorbis [www.cbc.ca] for Toronto, but they haven't expanded it beyond that. I suppose they figured that was enough of a bone to throw us.

  • by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Friday August 15, 2008 @01:54AM (#24611665) Homepage
    I don't live in the U.K. so I can't use the BBC's iPlayer. Their reasoning (and part of the reason for all the protections in the first place) is because I'm not paying a TV license fee like everyone in the UK who has a TV has to, so I shouldn't benefit. At the same time, I read reports that the BBC has budgetary problems. I know that I would, and I'm sure many others would, be more than willing to pay the same yearly license fee plus something extra for not living in the UK to use the iPlayer. I wish I understood why the BBC wouldn't adopt a policy like that.
    • It's not so much that you don't pay the license fee but that the various 3rd parties who produce programming for the BBC don't want their foreign market profits affected by allowing people outside the UK to view their shows on the BBC website, rather than on their 'local' TV stations.

      • If the BBC have produced something and want to sell it to another market - the value is decreased if a significant chunk of the people who wanted to watch it in that other market have already done so.
        I think it's even more complex than that as there are commercial arms within the BBC in charge of flogging the content. One part wants to move heaven and earth to get as much content out in as many ways as possible - the other half wants you to buy it on DVD.
        • Re:And conversely (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jimicus (737525) on Friday August 15, 2008 @04:52AM (#24612443)

          I think it's even more complex than that as there are commercial arms within the BBC in charge of flogging the content. One part wants to move heaven and earth to get as much content out in as many ways as possible - the other half wants you to buy it on DVD.

          It's a lot more complex than that.

          The other half wants you to buy it on DVD but is only prepared to make the DVD available if there's sufficient commercial demand.

          Furthermore, I'm given to understand that even a television programme produced entirely inhouse can be an absolute nightmare for licensing. Incidental music is licensed for use in the original broadcast and has to be relicensed or edited out if the programme is released on DVD, repeated or somehow rebroadcast (eg. through iPlayer). Similarly, actors, writers and journalists often retain some of the rights over their work and will want more money if the BBC wants the rights to release the show on DVD or repeat the show indefinitely. Not, therefore, something you write into the initial broadcast license unless you're pretty sure it's something that will be worth releasing on DVD.

  • If you stick with unencumbered stuff, you'll eventually run out of technology. Let's face it, people invent stuff and want to be compensated. Some of the stuff is pretty neat. It wasn't so long ago that the consensus was that you couldn't compress audio...so much for that idea (does anyone remember those days?).

    Instead, why doesn't the FSF (or some other organization lobbying for open-ness) just license the patents and release their own player/library/whatever?

    It sounds like what gets people's goat is that

    • It wasn't so long ago that the consensus was that you couldn't compress audio...so much for that idea (does anyone remember those days?).

      You mean except for the fact that audio compression systems have been around for decades? Exactly who were these people claiming such things?

  • who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:15AM (#24611757)
    how about you pick the best codec for the job, no one gives a crap about how open software is if it doesn't do the job as well. i'm not trying to troll here i'm just pointing out the blinding obvious truth. it's the reason MS is still dominating the market and the linux desktop is still 3 years away (same as it was 10 years ago)

    frankly h.264 is a brillant piece of work and i can't really begrude it's creators for patenting it and making a buck. it's VERY low cost and it's getting wide adoption because of the very reasonable terms it's licensed under.

    • by MartinG (52587)

      1) The BBC has a duty to provide access to all, not just to those who chose to depend on a particular vendor.

      2) Using patented technologies excludes a significant minority of users, and is therefore incompatible with (1)

      • by abigsmurf (919188)
        Guess the BBC had better pull out of freeview which broadcasts in MPEG-2. The widespread adoption of .h264 by software producers, content producers and hardware manufacturers is far more important to pandering to a few people's hatred of patents which aren't even valid in the UK (the BBC has no obligation to none licence fee payers and the BBC World service itself is funded by the government)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ideonode (163753)

        The BBC has a duty to provide access to all

        And it does. If there are those who have ideological issues with the means of distribution, exactly why should the BBC have to cater to their every whim? If I'm part of an obscure religion that demands that all broadcasts are in flipbook format, should the BBC cater to me as well?

        I appreciate the noble ideological position at play here. However, the BBC also have a responsibility to ensure that the monies they are collecting are spent well - spending lots of money

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by FireFury03 (653718)

          And it does.

          No, it doesn't - it provides access to people who purchased a product from one specific vendor - namely Windows from Microsoft.

          Saying "to receive BBC TV you need to have a TV receiver" is fine, but "to receive BBC TV you need to have a TV receiver manufactured by Sony" (for example) is not.

    • how about you pick the best codec for the job, no one gives a crap about how open software is if it doesn't do the job as well.

      Would have been nice if NBC had of thought of that instead of going with Silverlight for their online showings of the Olympics. No thanks on giving MS a reason to keep that nasty thing around.

    • by IBBoard (1128019)

      I think the people who run Linux and either a) want to be purists or b) don't want to have to shell out anything for their OS (which they'd have to do if it bundled codecs) or buy the codecs separately (which is what Fedora prompts you to do for MP3) are the ones who care.

      The BBC made its own DIRAC codec so that it could keep its standard-def infrastructure but handle high-def camera feeds instead of spending even larger amounts of money tearing out and replacing its infrastructure. They open-sourced it, so

    • how about you pick the best codec for the job, no one gives a crap about how open software is if it doesn't do the job as well.

      I would take "not quite as good" over "doesn't work at all (because they won't support the platform I use)" any day... Especially since I'm having to pay for it anyway.

  • Whining (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf (919188) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:50AM (#24611931)
    The BBC have NO obligation to anyone, especially people who don't pay licence fee, to produce or adopt open source software. Their obligation is to provide good value for money whilst providing the best service to licence payers.
    .h264 and AAC both cost so little for the BBC and any partners that using OGG/OGM would actively cost them more due to the inferior video compression. iPlayer eats insane amounts of bandwidth and if they can shrink videos down at all whilst maintaining quality it's in the BBC's best interests.
    That's not even taking into account the number of consumer devices that have hardware .h264 decoding compared to Theora. Would cost HW manufacturers a lot to add support for a format that's barely used.
    OSS types complained when the BBC made iPlayer windows only at first (even though they always said it was in development for more platforms) but the BBC still responded by speeding up the development of a more compatible platform. The BBC have made great strides with their own video codec even if it's not quite ready. Services like iPlayer are/were ahead of their time and are showing the way for other broadcasters.
    If the BBC do things like this yet only get people moaning in response, it'll make them wonder why they're spending licence fee's money on projects like these rather than giving their TV shows higher budgets or promoting HDTV adoption.
    • Re:Whining (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ledow (319597) on Friday August 15, 2008 @04:03AM (#24612209) Homepage

      Although I agree in part with you, there are a number of problems with what you say.

      ".h264 and AAC both cost so little for the BBC and any partners that using OGG/OGM would actively cost them more due to the inferior video compression."
      "The BBC have made great strides with their own video codec even if it's not quite ready."

      These two statements show the problem nicely. The BBC actually funds its own video codec specifically for archiving its video archives (which, eventually, it hopes to allow access to directly on the Internet - there's a quote somewhere if you look for it). This codec is already very good, completely free (and patent-free which is much more important for the BBC) and the cost to "finish it off" (which at this point is minor bug-fixing and bundling into a nice WMP-codec DLL / mplayer plugin etc.) is negligible to anything that they could buy - no matter how cheap. They could do it tomorrow.

      However, all they ever seem to do is cut back on Dirac and spend on other technologies. If Dirac's a failure then, to paraphrase yourself, they "have an obligation to the license payer" to cut it. If it's not, they really should be using it in place of a pay-for patented codec. It was designed with this sort of thing in mind and, if memory serves, was designed so that multiple "quality levels" could be easily made from the same streams to allow streaming over a very slow connection and professional-quality distribution/archival. Hell, have Dirac in all downloads for the iPlayer software and use something else for the Flash streams. It would still save money. And there's an precedent...

      "iPlayer eats insane amounts of bandwidth and if they can shrink videos down at all whilst maintaining quality it's in the BBC's best interests."

      Yes. Then they add the Wii to it, but only in the codec it's compatible with, which takes up 4x the bandwidth of the normal iPlayer streams. Thus, this argument is dead on it's feet. They actually put out an entirely seperate encoded file just for Wii (the most popular games console ever?) on every single video they have, sucking up 4x the bandwidth each time they are used. They also realise that real-time Flash-based streaming is dependent on peak hours and thus puts a massive dent into their bandwidth bill to cope with that peak-time, non-peer-to-peer surge. The other day they put the entire movie of Chicken Run on BBC iPlayer Flash streams and I had it playing in the background.

      But they can't write a Linux frontend (even if closed source) for already-existing code to solve this problem (and thus relegate real-time Flash streaming to a second-class method of delivery) or solve the "DRM problem" on Linux. Hell, speak to Nintendo and get iPlayer software bundled with the next Wii update - the more Wii use, more Wii's plugged into the TV all the time, the more bandwidth shared and the closer world Wii domination is.

      "That's not even taking into account the number of consumer devices that have hardware .h264 decoding compared to Theora."
      "Would cost HW manufacturers a lot to add support for a format that's barely used."

      Hardware-decoding is neither here nor there - modern PC's can brute force their way through any iPlayer stream without even breaking a sweat. Even consoles can handle the streams properly - my 600MHz Thinkpad on Linux without video acceleration laughs at the Flash streams and can play full-screen video of that type (800x600 DivX's, DVD's etc. don't worry it at all, even streamed over wireless). There aren't many (any?) HD streams available on iPlayer or broadband connections capable of making this an bottleneck.

      However, what you say has an element of truth in that they would have to make a way to play those streams available to the non-techy public. Like, say, an iPlayer app. Hmmm...

      "OSS types complained when the BBC made iPlayer windows only at first (even though they always said it was in development for more platforms) but the BBC still responded by speeding up the

      • by xaxa (988988)

        Do the BBC even have a bandwidth bill? They peer with pretty much every ISP in London, and also in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and New York. I don't know much about this stuff, but I think that means they don't pay anything, so long as your ISP is peered with them.

        http://support.bbc.co.uk/support/peering/ [bbc.co.uk]

    • The BBC have NO obligation to anyone, especially people who don't pay licence fee, to produce or adopt open source software.

      They do, however, have an obligation to use open standards, since their mandate states that they must be platform agnostic. This is a requirement that they have chosen to ignore when producing iPlayer, and they have received a telling off from the BBC Trust. I hope that this news is a sign that they are going to stop ignoring their mandate.

    • Re:Whining (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday August 15, 2008 @06:41AM (#24612957) Journal

      The BBC have NO obligation to anyone, especially people who don't pay licence fee, to produce or adopt open source software. Their obligation is to provide good value for money whilst providing the best service to licence payers.

      No. The BBC have exactly one obligation - to uphold their charter. Please read their charter. It makes no distinction between license payers and non-payers. It only talks about providing services to people in the UK. You don't need a license fee to listen to BBC Radio, but they still have obligations to radio listeners.

      One of these obligations is to make their programming available to the greatest number of people. This is easy with analogue TV and Radio, since anyone can build a TV or Radio capable of receiving the BBC's content. With the iPlayer, it's different. Imagine I want to build a mobile device that can be used to access iPlayer content. If I'm someone like Apple, then I just release the device and the BBC (for some reason) implement a special-case front-end for my device. But if I'm a small player just entering the market, I can't. This harms innovation in the UK. If the BBC used an open standard, I could create a service that grabbed their content and transcoded it to something that would play on my phone's tiny screen (for example). Or I could transcode it on my PC to play on my 770 easily.

      It is not the BBC's job to favour one or more manufacturers in the market. Imagine if they had decided in the '60s that they would only allow Sony TVs to receive colour TV signals. Would you consider this to be acceptable?

  • The last thing we need is another codec and/or supporting plugin/application to play it. Particularly as Flash etc. is starting to be the defacto standard.

    Just adopt the MPEG4 stack already, if theres patent issues surely they can be resolved fairly easily in the case of the BBC, and these 'other platforms' people ask to be supported can do so easily. (Give them the stream URL to play in Quicktime or VLC)

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