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BBC HD Freeview encryption confusion

The BBC has said that it wants to be able to protect its TV listings and other service information for the HD channels it is due to start broadcasting on terrestrial Freeview later this year. Under the terms of its licence as a public service broadcaster, the BBC is not allowed to encrypt any transmissions, but providers of HD content normally insist on digital rights management before allowing broadcasting.

The BBC has said that it wants to be able to protect its TV listings and other service information for the HD channels it is due to start broadcasting on terrestrial Freeview later this year. Under the terms of its licence as a public service broadcaster, the BBC is not allowed to encrypt any transmissions, but providers of HD content normally insist on digital rights management before allowing broadcasting.

The compromise, which Ofcom believes is legal and has put out for consultation, would not prevent reception of HD content but would only allow scheduling information to be used by set-top boxes which implemented the copy restrictions that the HD content providers wanted.

The proposal is very unlikely to affect technically savvy users who will be able to acquire scheduling information from other sources, such as Internet listings, or who can unscramble the broadcast information by other means. It's also unlikely to deter people able to make alterations to set-top box firmware, much of which is based on open source or has been reverse-engineered by determined enthusiasts.

The BBC has examined other possible ways of placating the rights holders, but has concluded that these would be expensive, delay the introduction of the service, be against its terrestrial broadcasting licence and require the development of large amounts of broadcast and reception equipment with an uncertain market and lifetime.

There has been some confusion over the proposals, with many commentators considering the BBC proposal as affecting the transmissions of the programming itself.