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BBC Threatened Over iPlayer Format 269

greengrass sends us to coverage in The Register of the Open Source Consortium's threatened anti-trust challenge against the BBC over its use of Windows Media format in its on-demand service, iPlayer. From the article: "The OSC will raise a formal complaint with UK broadcast and telecoms watchdog Ofcom next week, and has vowed to take its accusations to the European Competition Commission if domestic regulators do not act. The OSC compared the situation to the European Commission's prosecution of Microsoft over its bundling of Windows Media Player with Windows."
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BBC Threatened Over iPlayer Format

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  • Glad to see this. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anubi ( 640541 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @04:23PM (#19613271) Journal
    Governments, funded by the PUBLIC should put their stuff in PUBLIC format.

    • Well, I guess that basically leaves us with Matroska [wikipedia.org] as its at least the only public domain video format I know of. Of course that may mean only .000001% of the public will actually have the required software to see it, but at least its public! ;-)
      • You can get software to play MKVs on almost any platform for free-as-in-beer (and often -as-in-speech), unlike Windows Media with DRM.
        • Really? What platform can you not play Windows Media on? Even my phone can play Windows Media. I would be surprised if the iPod video didn't support wmv either. Certainly easy in every linux distro out there, No problem on the Mac. All supported out of the box versus MKV which I've never even heard of let alone downloaded a codec for. This is just silly, you don't even need Windows Media encoder to create Windows Media files. The DRM is entirely optional.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

            Really? What platform can you not play Windows Media on?

            You can't play DRM-encoded windows media anyplace you don't have windows media player. You are asking an irrelevant question, "What platform can you not play Windows Media on?", the actual question is "What platform can you not play DRM-restricted Windows Media on?" And the answer is "most places" - you can't play it anyplace that doesn't have a recent windows media player. And that turns out to be quite a few places.

            I have a better question or two,

            • As for your first question, why should the BBC choose a proprietary format that 800 million computers in-use today support? That's not even worth answering, it's just plain silly particularly from a news agency trying to reach as many people as possible.

              This is not a debate. You haven't actually presented a rebuttal to anything I said, you merely cast it all off as irrelevant.

              The problem isn't with WMV, it's with the DRM employed. Lift the DRM and over 800 million computers out there can play the content.

              • by h2g2bob ( 948006 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @06:05PM (#19614517) Homepage

                Having not heard of MKV also matters a great deal, the format is not widely adopted
                This matters not a jot. iPlayer is p2p software: it is a software download already. Adding a codec install to the mix is child's play.

                And the BBC would want to protect it's content because it sells quite a bit of its content to other countries; plus sells DVDs of some stuff too. This money goes back into making programs.
                • You are correct, a 200k download times 100 million potential viewers is nothing to worry about. Oh wait, that's a lot of bandwidth!

                  I actually don't think that is a big deal but it's more work than just deploying with WMV and the thousands of people out there that already know how the whole process works as it relates to production and encoding.

              • by nevali ( 942731 )
                You seem to have missed the point if you think their being a news agency has much relevancy. They're a broadcaster and content producer: news is just one small part of what they do. It's the other (read: prime-time) content that people are interested in, for the most part.
                • No, you seem to have missed the point. The problem is with the DRM and not the format they chose. I don't care what content they wish to share. They should setup a site for those in Britain without DRM and a site for everyone else with it because they sell the content. Problem solved. I can understand why those in Britain would be annoyed given that they pay taxes to support the BBC and I can understand by the BBC would want DRM.

                  Of course if they got rid of the DRM completely and just went to an account ba

                  • by nevali ( 942731 )
                    Yes, being British (and especially as Windows isn't my primary platform), the fact it's a closed, proprietary format pisses me off no end, especially when it's one that I can't easily play and have already paid for.

                    Moreover, in a few years' time, the content will be useless if it's all Windows Media Video with DRM restrictions.

                    However, my response was purely to your "it's just plain silly particularly from a news agency trying to reach as many people as possible": characterising the BBC as merely a news age
                    • by nevali ( 942731 )
                      Oh, and also, they're free to provide content in DRM-encumbered WMV if they like; provided it's not the only format (or more importantly: that Windows isn't the only supported platform for which) they make content available in via the service.

                      Indeed, if they were to release an open source player for their video files under a vaguely reasonable license, it doesn't really matter whether it's DRM-encumbered WMV, or anything else. Microsoft would never let them do that, which is a bit of an acid test for a medi
            • by MS-06FZ ( 832329 )

              MKV isn't a codec, it's a container format. It's an open container format that supports AFAIK effectively unlimited video and audio streams, internal subtitle tracks, etc. Not ever having heard of it is irrelevant, because it's not a large download and the beeb could provide download instructions.

              Yeah, but the real question is this: what restrictions exist on the use of the AFAIK codec? It's great that it can handle "effectively unlimited" streams and all that, but that doesn't do me any good if it's all bound up in patents and overly-restrictive licensing terms...

      • You forgot about the obvious one, Ogg Theora.
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @04:49PM (#19613621) Homepage Journal

      Governments, funded by the PUBLIC should put their stuff in PUBLIC format.

      and when software patents get in the way, the PUBLIC should demand that law serve the PUBLIC interest. Software patents are bogus and they are the only reason there's a format problem in the first place.

    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      Well, the BBC is publicly-funded, by a legally-mandated licence fee, but it's not part of the government. Also, while I certainly support publicly-funded things being publicly-available, I really can't see any justification at all for trying to make this an anti-trust issue. It's been a very long time indeed since the BBC was the only UK broadcaster, and they by no means have a monopoly.
  • The OS landscape changing as it is now (not necessarily as fast as we'd like it), this move is valid. Personally I don't like to use Microsoft products, no exception to Windows Media Player on Mac (a bit of a bitch to find and install the proper CODECs).

    I like to at least have a choice of media formats available...
    • MSFT dicontinued Windows Media for the Mac last year. Now in order to view WMV files one most manually download a third party codec. It does have an installation program but yea.

      It also chokes on a large section of WM9 files. They do work on it, but it's hit or miss sometimes. and don't even think about DRM encrusted files.
    • Yeah, I don't use WMP to play WMV on Mac either. Especially since MS stopped developing the player for mac and gave it out to a 3rd party developer. So now I use the www.flip4mac.com Flip4mac plug-in and view WMV content in Quicktime.

      Typically I tell clients to place video on the web in Quicktime if you're looking to hit the largest market segment with only 1 format. But from what they are saying, they want a time bomb that would disable content after x number of days and I'm not sure there is anything

  • Blogs... (Score:2, Informative)

    Blogged about the BBC's choice of DRM a while back, Could the BBC lose respect over DRM? [beplacid.com]
  • Real Player (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cerberus911 ( 834576 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @04:29PM (#19613343)
    They should just switch to Real Player, then everyone will be equally (un)happy.
  • No it's okay (Score:3, Insightful)

    by matt me ( 850665 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @04:35PM (#19613435)
    They're going to bring a Mac client as well, which means that *everyone* will be able to watch TV. That's how they report the story.
    • Sure they will. There are countless of web sites where Mac's are left out due to WMV. Its about time somebody stands up against this BS.

      • Why would a Mac be left out due to WMV? Perhaps due to DRM but the format itself works on pretty much everything these days. Did Apple intentionally pull support from Quicktime for it? Seems silly given that roughly 800 million computers out there have Windows Media Player.
        • by makomk ( 752139 )
          Had you RTFA, you would know that the downloads in question are in fact heavily DRMed WMVs. (I think there's even native Linux players for non-DRMed WMV files these days, although they can't play everything, but DRMed ones are still Windows only and probably always will be).
          • Except that you said exactly the same thing as I said. Thank you for agreeing with me. The problem is with the DRM and not WMV.
  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @04:53PM (#19613679)
    I find this interesting that they are debating the formats and everything, yet US broadcasters have found ways of streaming online (through flash video?) okay. And since these are private enterprises, I'd think they'd be even more concerned with protecting IP. Granted, there are usually a couple 30 second ads (at least with Lost) you have to set through, but none the less they've found a way.

    Now on the flip side, these are private enterprises and can do pretty much whatever the hell they want in terms of formats, which usually means finding a way to reach the largest audience possible while still protecting the content. But it seems to me that as conventional TV dies, from DVR's and competition from cable/sat channels, they are trying to expand viewer ship and trying to find what works online. I'm not sure anyone's got it quite figured out yet, but are trying.

  • Leave the BBC alone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kkiller ( 945601 )
    However much I'd love the beeb to be using a opensource version of the iPlayer, they have bigger fish to fry right now than this. The BBC Trust process has meant that the iPlayer is incredibly late, considering its been in planning for several years. More legal trouble could mean the Player never leaves beta at all - leaving the BBC even more irrelevant. In addition, each move the Beeb makes is analysed and scrutinised by a jealous commercial opposition who see new markets which the BBC has picked up and fe
  • Sign the Petition (Score:3, Informative)

    by mormop ( 415983 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @06:06PM (#19614525)
    UK and ex-pats only though.

    http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/iplayer/ [pm.gov.uk]
  • Where's Dirac? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trawg ( 308495 ) on Friday June 22, 2007 @10:53PM (#19616567) Homepage
    Does anyone know why the BBC didn't end up using Dirac for this project? It's the first I've heard of the iPlayer, but I would have thought their Dirac work would have been perfect for this.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly