Thursday, April 19, 2007

BBC still don't know what they are talking about

The BBC are planning to make vast swathes of their programming available online; I think that this is a great idea—especially as I can't get BBC 1 or 2 through my TV.

But there's a problem: despite appropriating an Apple-associated nomenclature for their software client, iPlayer, it doesn't actually work with Macs. Hilariously, the BBC gave the following excuse.
The BBC's plans for the iPlayer were put on hold earlier this year after its regulators, the BBC Trust, asked the corporation to look at whether the iPlayer should be platform agnostic.

You're fucking right it should be platform agnostic. I may be a Mac user, but I've still paid my license fee. Why should I be discriminated against?
Mr Highfield said Apple's "proprietary and closed framework for digital rights management gives us headaches," but, "it is one of our top priorities to re-engineer our proposed BBC iPlayer service to work on Macs".

There are three main problems here.

First, Mark Thomson, BBC D-G, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft. One of the terms agreed was that the BBC would protect its content using Microsoft's Digital Rights Management system. But just because the majority of the world's computers can interpret MS's DRM does not mean that it isn't proprietary: in fact, as Steve Jobs pointed out, all DRM is. As it happens, the MS DRM is built right into the Windows OS, thus making it rather difficult for any other operating system—Mac OS, Linux, whatever—to run programmes encoded with it.

Second, simply because you want to put DRM on your programmes is nothing to do with Apple's DRM format. They aren't delivering programmes to you, you are delivering to Mac users. If you must use DRM, simply release the APIs to Apple—or even to an independent Mac developer—and they will develop the tools for installation by users.

Last, there is, of course, a simple solution, Mr Highfield: simply don't put any DRM in your programmes. At a time when EMI has just announced that it's ditching DRM in its digital downloads, it is hardly appropriate for you to be bitching and moaning on this topic. Especially, as I've said, when I have already paid for those programmes.

For fuck's sake, don't these people have convincing excuse writers editors?


Anonymous said...

Leave DRM where it is on BBC programming. I don't want to pay royalties twice over through my licence fee tax. Get a PC based system instead of that Mac shite and you can watch it...easy.

you are so easy to wind up...:-)

Devil's Kitchen said...

Nah, I can run Windows on my Mac without a problem: it's the principle of the thing...


Roger Thornhill said...

It is also the fact that people use MS because

a) they have to because of work
b) they are ignorant of anything else

In this case it is b.

I had a similar run-in with when they changed their streaming to a non-Mac compatible nonsense. Of all places to use proprietary software!

Still, the response from the BBC is classic Stalinist projection. It is not Apple's DRM but Microsoft's DRM, yet they "blame" Apple because it is pesky.

Paul said...

It's not just EMI that provide their content without DRM, the BBC do too!

I'm currently working on a project to demonstrate how easily and cheaply you can make a rolling archive of all the BBC's digital output using a computer, a Freeview card, and a big hard disk, at a total cost of about £200.

Its' far easier than messing around with DRM'd stuff from the iPlayer: you can keep it as long as you like; you don't run the risk of using up your ISP's bandwidth limits, and you don't need to run Windows.

What's the point of that DRM again?

Anonymous said...

This is a farse. This blog entrie should be deleted. Why should the BBC spend MY money investing in a audience of only 5% of the market AT BEST!
Mac users need to remove the stick stuck into them and stop hating the world. Jobs is the WORST example of a DRM lover. He would not offer ANY licesing for Fairplay to allow any other devices use it. So FU and your biast junk. Remeber also that the 5% is mostly made up of americans who would even get access.
The only reason Jobs got rid of DRM, and this came from the head of the RIAA, was if iTunes store market share dropped. Then he could sell to other players.
Look at your own Applefanboy camps drm before slaggin microsofts which supports the majority of the market.
I am so sick of Apple fanboys and I dont even love windows.

Graeme said...

What about us Linux users. Based on the number of people using its software repositary, Ubuntu alone has half the number of users Mac OS X has, so there are probably about as many of us as Mac users.

Given that the BBC has said it wants to make its whole archive freely available, DRM looks like it might be pointless anyway.

The real reason for this is to satisfy commercial broadcasters who are frightened of competition from the Beeb - the BBC actually said so. I have been blogging about this myself.

Anonymous said...

How much would mac users propose spending to allow the HUGE minority of users who have a mac and no PC access?
I think that would be a waste of money. I know it sucks not having support but really is it the BBC's fault?
What about UNIX/OS2? when does the OS madness end?
There will ALWAYS be a minority that wont get what they want, thats life. The BBC has to support the majority to get value for money. I would be mad if they went and spent money on Mac support so the few whiners could get what they want. Its cheaper if they buy the 10 or so of you (exaggeration) pc's for the cheap then trying to get into Apple support. Accept the fact that if you buy the minority you dont get supported as well. Why dont you moan at microsoft for not supporting WMV on mac?
Because microsoft would say they dont CARE. You CHOSE to buy a OS that has little support. Do you bitch at adobe etc if software only turns up for the PC?
Why, because to develope it for mac there is a $ value. The user base is so limited the cost per user is too high. And I hope you mac/linux boys learn to accept YOUR choice and not moan about the fact that your os simple is not worth it. MS users dont bitch about how crap it is x,y,z does not run on pc that apple make. The original ipod was not PC compatible but not a squeek from the mac community to defend the rights of PC users, the majority. Its all about you now is it not? You did not even care about linux much in this blog.

Phil said...

hey - i don't want DRM even on my pc. it's a waste of license payers money implementing it at all.

Graeme said...

I notice the defenders of the BBC are both anonymous.

The fact is that public funds should not be spent in a way that provides support to a particular proprietary solution.

There is a strong public benefit in encouraging competition. Strengthening Microsoft's network effects reduces competition and is bad for all of us in the long term. Othewise we end up with Bill Gates playing Stalin and centrally planning what software is best for all of us.

Secondly, it should not cost much more to produce a cross-platform solution.

Thirdly, companies like Adobe (with Acrobat and Flash) and Real Networks (with Real Player) do manage to make their software avaiable on Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

In addition Adobe's PDF format is open, so not only do I have Acrobat Reader for Linux, which is better than the Windows version (its loads faster in the default setup), but I also have other, still better PDF readers avaiable.

Why can the BBC not simply drop DRM and put everything in an open format? Then they could leave it to others to develop the players. No cost at all.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is not only a proprietary american corporation. It is a monopoly (judged as such by US courts and in the EU).

In this case there are alternatives. So exactly *why* someone decided to let Microsoft monopolize BBC content is an interesting question. It seems like a very unnatural decision to make. What kind of pressure was involved?

Chris said...

The point is not PC vs Mac DRM. The point is open-ness. THE BBC is a public body and has no right to mandate the choice of viewing platform. That platform might be a Mac, a PC, or Linux. It might also be an Xbox, PS3, set-up top box, etc, etc. They should have gone with DRM that is license-able and cheap enough to be built into consumer-friendly living room gear. Had they developed the DRM themselves, they would have been able to charge for the licenses and made the whole thing self-funding. What they should not be doing is hosing my license fee straight into Bill Gates's pocket. Ashley Highfield's comments during the course of this fiasco prove he has no concept of public service broadcasting and no business setting the BBC's IT strategy. He should be replaced and the memorandum of understanding should be publicly burnt.

simon said...

As a Mac user and a TV licence payer, I want to know:
WHEN is the BBC intending to deliver a Mac version of iPlayer? We already know they are going to do it because cross platform support was a BBC trust pre-condition. A software commitment without strings = vapourware.
Has the BBC or anyone at the BBC been incentivised by Microsof to use their DRM?
Why wasn't a DRM format selected that could block access to those who had NOT bought a TV licence?
According to a letter sent to me via my MP by Mark Thompson this was only considered AFTER the Microsoft DRM was selected, and subsiquently found to be impracticle. Never mind the digital rights of the program maker what about the rights of the licence fee payers? Apple fairplay offers this possibilty out of the box. This should surely have been a number one consideration. Number 2 consideration should have been making sure we the licence payers could watch Match-of-the-day on holiday. As it is I don't think we're going to be able to download content outside the UK. Using Fairplay DRM this would NOT have been a problem because it would be locked to your laptop ID and TV licence serial number to the content. As does iTunes.

Chris said...

Good thought Simon - so the BBC could have DRM that
a) enforces the licence fee, and
b) creates a revenue stream from equipment manufacturers
Instead, the money pipe goes straight to Microsoft - no doubt following a fair and open procurement exercise. Where's the National Audit Office when you need them?

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