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Ofcom 'backs BBC Freeview HD copy plan'

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Ofcom 'backs BBC Freeview HD copy plan'
Ofcom has said that it is "minded to grant approval" for a BBC plan to introduce copy protection technology around the forthcoming commercial launch of Freeview HD.

In its latest communication on the matter, the media regulator has expressed its willingness to amend the digital multiplex licence to support the "justified objective" of content protection on HD digital terrestrial television.

Final approval for the plan is now subject to any remaining responses in Ofcom's consultation, which runs until April 2, but the proposal is expected to come into force before Freeview HD products launch in the spring.

Last September, the BBC asked Ofcom to amend the multiplex licence to enable a compression of service information data - which receivers need to understand TV services in the data stream - on Freeview HD. In return, the corporation will offer its decompression algorithm without charge to all manufacturers who implement the technology.

The BBC believes that a small amount of copy protection on Freeview HD would encourage more content owners to free up their material and therefore improve the viewing experience.

It wants rights holders to have confidence in the security measures on DTT to release their HD content in a similar time frame as other digital TV platforms, such as Sky and Virgin Media.

After running a consultation on the proposal - which raised a number of "potentially significant questions regarding compliance with copyright law and competition issues" - Ofcom told the BBC to revise its proposal, specifically in terms of the "anticipated benefits to citizens and consumers" who want to legitimately copy HD content.

Ofcom acknowledged that the BBC wants to ensure the widest range of HD content on DTT, while not restricting consumer options or the development of receiver technology.

The proposal would however involve Ofcom amending the multiplex licence to "restrict the availability of programme listing information for HD TV services only to receivers that implement content management technology".

If approved, the copy protection plan would permit unrestricted recordings of HD content on approved DVRs, but would also enable broadcasters to control the copying of such content to other devices or on to the internet. Any recorded HD content would only be transferable to other credited consumer devices which support the same copy protection technology.

After the BBC supplied additional information on its plan as requested, including various alternative proposals and their effectiveness, Ofcom has given its provisional backing for an amendment of the licence.

"In view of the fuller submission provided by the BBC, Ofcom is currently minded to approve its request for a multiplex licence amendment subject to consultation responses, on the basis that in principle, content management is a justified objective which ensures that the broadest range of HD content is made available to citizens and consumers," said the regulator.

"Ofcom has considered alternative proposals for implementation put forward by the BBC and is minded to grant approval under the amended licence on the basis that the proposals are the least intrusive means of achieving effective copy management to deliver the benefits of a wider range of content to consumers."

The copy protection consultation will now stay open until April 2, meaning any opponents to the plan can still raise their objections. However, Ofcom is expected to greenlight the proposal before Freeview HD products launch on to the market in the spring.

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