Ofcom rejects BBC Freeview HD copy plans

Tuesday, November 10 2009, 13:46 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

Ofcom has moved to turn down a BBC proposal to introduce more stringent copy protection on the forthcoming Freeview HD platform.

Last month, the BBC defended its controversial plan to ensure that all Freeview HD receivers will be equipped with more restrictive copy protection technology.

Acting on behalf of content owners, the corporation asked Ofcom about the possibility of compressing service information data - which the boxes need to understand TV services in the data stream - on the unencrypted HD platform.

For the approach to go ahead, the BBC needed Ofcom to change the wording of the multiplex licence to reflect the fact that this new arrangement was permitted.

Despite previously indicating that it would approve the plans, the regulator has since turned down the proposal.

In a letter sent to the BBC, Ofcom strategy and markets principle David Harrison explained that the regulator will not approve any changes to the multiplex licence without giving "further consideration" to certain key issues.

Harrison said that the watchdog reached the decision after receiving an extensive response to its consultation, which raised a "number of potentially significant consumer 'fair use' and competition issues that were not addressed in our original consultation".

However, he added that Ofcom remains "keen to support" the use of copy protection on Freeview HD, and so will consider future amendment to the licence as long as the BBC can make a sufficient case for the change.

The corporation must now fully outline the benefits of copy protection on DTT for consumers, as well as address how any "potential disadvantages" to the existing Freeview PVR market would be mitigated.