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BBC wins go-ahead for Freeview HD content controls

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Ofcom, the UK’s TV regulator, has today given the go-ahead for the implementation of content controls on Freeview’s HD service. The controls are designed to prevent HD content being copied, controls without which, broadcasters have argued, some programmes might not be able to be shown.

The proposals mean that, while there won’t be restrictions on recording programmes on to a DVR with a built-in receiver, there will be restrictions imposed on attempts to copy material to other devices, for example by burning it to disc in high definition.

Rather than full-blown encryption, the Freeview HD programmes themselves will continue to be broadcast in the clear – so they’ll be receivable by DVB-T2 PC tuners when those become available.

The content protection takes the form of a system already in use on Freesat, where the EPG data will be compressed using Huffman encoding. Manufacturers who wish to access the EPG data will have to license the Huffman table needed to decode the data from the Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator (DTLA), and a requirement of obtaining the table is that the restrictions on copying of content must be respected.

MythTV

Perhaps as a result of the complaints from the open source community that the system would prevent the use of software such as MythTV - which can already decode the Freesat EPG - Ofcom’s amendment to the BBC licence for the HD multiplex requires that the Huffman tables be made available on a royalty free basis.

It’s not only open source software that could be affected. Equipment that is not Freeview HD certified, like 3View’s forthcoming DVR, will also have to abide by the content protection rules, if it wishes to access the EPG. 3View’s Robert Blackwell told Reg Hardware that he doesn’t anticipate that it’s going to be a problem.

And, of course, any system that uses an alternative EPG source won’t be affected either, though it also won’t be able to take advantage of things like the "accurate recording" and series link information transmitted on Freeview.

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