Freeview HD content protection issue resolved

By Julian Clover

September 3, 2009 12.18 UK

Ofcom has ruled out the possibility of encryption on the FTA HD multiplex after third party content owners said they would seek to implement content management arrangements listed in the industry D Book. Instead, the regulator looks set to vary the licence for Multiplex B to cover changes to the so-called look-up tables.

In a letter to the regulator Alix Pride, the BBC’s controller of distribution, warned that any delay in putting a solution in place would put terrestrial HD coverage of the 2010 World Cup at risk because of the time that would be needed by manufacturers of Freeview HD equipment to implement the changes.

Subsequently, Ofcom has rushed through its consultation process, inviting comments by September 16th on an amendment to Condition 6 of the licence, making clear the licensees ability to protect intellectual property rights subject to clearance from the regulator.

A spokesperson for the Digital Television Group (DTG), said the organisation had been working with the main terrestrial networks and the consumer electronics industry to resolve the issue. “We welcome Ofcom’s clarification that the proposed solution is able to fit within the regulatory framework in advance of DTG Council considering the final proposal at the end of the month.”

The approach made through the Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator (DTLA) is complicated because the requirements of the D-Book, published by the DTG, are not mandatory.
In a solution proposed by the BBC and accepted by DTLA, algorithmic tables known as the Huffman Look-up Tables would be used to compress broadcast SI data, however the solution would require the data to be compressed against the wording of the current Ofcom licence.

Discussion within the DTG working groups lead to one manufacturer to suggest the encryption of the HD signal, but this has been ruled out by the BBC as both a matter of policy and practicality. The difficulty for the BBC is that any move would require the co-operation of receiver manufacturers.
HD transmissions using the DVB-T2 standard are expected to go live from the Winter Hill transmitter serving Manchester and Liverpool on December 1.