Feeds

Open sourcers rattle EU sabre at BBC on demand player

Anti-competitive DRM accusations ramped up

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The BBC is being threatened with an anti-trust challenge in Europe over its use of the Windows Media format in its on demand service, iPlayer, which is in the final stages of testing.

Advocacy group the Open Source Consortium (OSC) will raise a formal complaint with UK broadcast and telecoms watchdog Ofcom next week, and has vowed to take its accusations to the European Competition Commission if domestic regulators do not act.

The OSC, whose membership comprises individual open source proponents and vendors, says the BBC is unfairly locking the public into Microsoft operating systems. OSC CEO Rick Timmis said: "We've got a broad and varied market place and it seems counter productive to round all your chickens in one pen."

The OSC compared the situation to the European Commission's prosecution of Microsoft over its bundling of Windows Media Player with Windows. That case was initiated in 2004 by complaints from other vendors, and resulted in European courts imposing a record fine on Redmond, which it is still appealing against.

The final decision to approve a Windows-only broadband player was made by the BBC Trust at the end of April. The public broadcaster's independent governing body approved iPlayer on the basis of its own investigations and a Market Impact Assessment (MIA) carried out by Ofcom.

Ofcom insisted that its process had been inclusive and open, and said any further progress on the matter was now in the hands of the BBC Trust. "We made recomendations which were taken on board by the trust," a spokesman said.

The OSC first raised anti-competitive concerns via letters to Ofcom earlier this year. In his response, Ofcom's director of competition policy Gareth Davies quoted the MIA: "On balance, we consider that access to iPlayer would be only one of many factors influencing the decision to purchase a new computer operating system, and is therefore this is likely to be a relatively minor concern."

Regarding the iPlayer's direct impact on the media player market, the MIA said it "would require a very significant assessment of the media player/DRM markets". Both OSC and Ofcom are liaising with the Office of Fair Trading on the issues.

The BBC has explained its choice of DRM in terms of the trust's specification that downloaded shows should be time bombed to become unviewable after 30 days. In a statement, the BBC told The Register: "In order to maximise public value, the BBC must balance extending access to content with the need to maintain the interests of rights holders and the value of secondary rights in BBC programming. Without a time-based DRM framework the BBC would not be able to meet the terms of the trust's PVT decision.

"It is not possible to put an exact timeframe on when BBC iPlayer will be available for Mac users. However, we are working to ensure this happens as soon as possible and the BBC Trust will be monitoring progress on a six monthly basis."

For streaming media, such as news clips, in the past the BBC has preferred to use the RealPlayer format, which does not have a time bomb function for downloadable video. The OSC insists that on demand streaming, or DRM-free downloads would be more in the public interest than an OS-specific format.

The iPlayer project has already had a lengthy and troubled gestation, going back to a first announcement four years ago. Since then it has been rebranded twice and reannounced repeatedly. In the meantime, terrestrial rivals ITV and Channel 4 have developed and delivered on demand programming over the internet. Recently, details have emerged of a bid to unite the competing players under the banner "Project Kangaroo". ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.