UK Broadcasters Want Freeview HD DRM’d To Tackle PVR Piracy

Freeview TV operators in the UK want to stop the mass, unauthorised copying of HD content by demanding that set-top box and PVR manufacturers accept new DRM standards. Expressing the concerns of Freeview shareholders including Channel 4 and ITV (LSE: ITV), the BBC wrote to Ofcom asking it to consider whether the digital terrestrial HD signal could be encrypted via a so-called “broadcast flag” so that only selected PVRs will be able to record over Freeview, as EFF.org points out.
The actual audio and video won’t be scrambled, but the standard EPG data tables that STBs use — freely available via the Digital TV Group — would be encrypted so that only manufacturers that sign up to a new licence will have access to the right code, which is needed for recording.
Ofcom launched a consultation (pdf) on 3 September and says it is “minded to amend” the Freeview multiplex licence allowing for the “protection of intellectual property rights in HDTV services”. The deadline for public submissions is Wednesday. BBC distribution controller Alix Pryde wrote in a letter to Ofcom: “As broadband speeds are increasing, facilitating the unauthorised redistribution of HD content, HD content rights holders have begun to expect a degree of content management on the Freeview HD platform…Whilst no system provides a complete deterrent to determined hackers, content management applied in the receiver after reception helps to prevent mass piracy.”
Like all content owners, even terrestrial PSBs are understandably worried about piracy — but there are fears this could hurt ordinary folk more than tech-savvy P2P nerds. As MP and former communications minister Tom Watson writes: “In an attempt to satisfy the fears of powerful rightsholders, the BBC will prohibit millions of people from programming their existing STBs…Where