BBC Freeview HD copy plan still in limbo

The BBC has revealed that its Freeview HD copy protection plan is still up in the air, but the delay will not hinder the commercial launch of the service.

Last month, Ofcom moved to turn down a BBC proposal to introduce more stringent protection for "high value" HD content on the DTT platform.

Following widespread criticism of the plan, Ofcom principle Greg Bensberg confirmed that the initial consultation threw up too many "serious issues", mostly around the negative impact on the public.

The regulator therefore told the BBC to do more work on the proposal before any changes could be implemented, but also left the door open for some sort of copy protection on Freeview HD.

Speaking yesterday at the launch of Freeview HD, BBC acting controller of distribution Graham Plumb said that copy protection, or content management as he calls it, remains an "emotive issue" for the public.

However, he added that a "small amount" of protection, such as already in place on Freesat, could encourage broadcasters to bring more content to the Freeview HD platform.

"It's our position that having a small amount of content management on the system could bring a much wider range of content to the system. So it's about implementing a content management system that has a low impact on the consumer in terms of how they can actually manage their content," Plumb said.

"We're in the process of consultation with Ofcom, because it's such an important issue. But that hasn't stopped us from getting to technical launch [of Freeview HD]. We are in the process of consultation and that will determine whether content management will be introduced on the platform."

Plumb said that content management is intended to "keep the honest person honest" but also make some in-roads into tackling piracy. He claimed that the system being proposed is "very lightweight" and takes into account the fact that all Freeview transmissions are free-to-air.

"You cannot stop a determined hacker, but it is about the general principle of saying that certain content is very high value. The solution we are proposing is very lightweight. There is no restriction whatsoever on downloads of standard definition content. In the most restrictive state, you would still be able to make at least one high definition copy onto Blu-ray disc or other system," he said.

"In the least restrictive state, people would be able to upload copies to the internet and whatever. So I think it's a very lightweight solution that we are proposing, but we have got to do a lot more interaction with the public and display what the system is about. We need to have a lot more communication about what we are seeking to achieve. Its all about making more content available to people."

When asked whether the protracted consultation would delay the commercial launch of Freeview HD equipment, Plumb replied: "We do not believe so".