back to article Broadcasters and ISPs cosy up for iPlayer on Freeview

The BBC, ITV and BT are working on technical standards aimed at offering on demand TV over broadband to the UK's more than 15 million Freeview households. The trio announced proposals today that to build a "standards based open environment for broadband connected digital television receivers". They invited other public service …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    No TV License Required..?

    In theory, one should not require a TV License for On Demand services, as the TV License only covers the reception of television as it is being broadcast.

    As personal On Demand services cannot be considered 'broadcast' I don't see why I couldn't hook up a cable box and use Virgin's system, or get a Freeview box and watch iPlayer, so long as I didn't watch any 'live' channels.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this mean...

    ...that BT will put iPlayer on BT Vision?

    When BT Vision first kicked off there was something similar on there. And then once everybody had got used to it they took the free facility away.

    I had been told that this was because BT were hosting the content themselves and the BBC wanted them to pay for the privelege. Not sure if this is true, but it seems a bit silly to charge BT (and therefore it's customers) for doing the BBC a favour and taking some load off the Beebs servers and networks.

  3. john.w
    Thumb Down

    TV Licence Required

    You need a license if you operate equipment capable of receiving broadcast so a Freeview or Virgin STB need a license. There was an issue for owners of black and white TVs who required a colour licence if they had a Sky box.

  4. Paul

    @ AC

    If you hook up a cable box and use Virgin's system, or get a Freeview box and watch iPlayer you are capable of receiving a live feed, and thereore need a licence.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @AC1 - 13:20

    >the TV License only covers the reception of television as it is being broadcast

    Umm, no, legally, it covers any device _capable_ of receiving television as it is being broadcast. So your cable and freeview boxes are included, even if you only watch On Demand things.

  6. Dick Emery
    Thumb Down

    I already have on demand

    It's called Bittorrent ;)

  7. Steve Sutton

    @John W and AC2 & 3

    No, you only need a licence if you *actually receive* broadcasts. You absolutely do NOT need a licence to operate equipment which is merely capable of doing so.

    For example, you do not need a TV licence to operate a VCR, or the TV it is attached to as a player only - e.g. for rented videos - even if both are capable receiving TV broadcasts.

    Similarly, if you use a device which is capable of receiving broadcasts, but in fact is only used for downloading information from the internet (excluding simultaneous broadcasts), you won't need a licence

    See here -

    "You need a TV licence to use any television receiving equipment such as a TV set, set-top box, video or DVD recorder, computer or mobile phone to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on TV."

    Notice the prase is "to watch or record" not "which is capable of watching or recording"

    ...unless/until they change the law

    @AC1 - I'm not sure about the on demand stuff you're talking about, but any on demand stuff which works by using 10 different channels, all running the same programme, offset from each other by say 15 min, would probably still be considered broadcast - but then, they're not true on demand stuff.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Fail, in so many ways

    Fail, because Ofcon have already said no to Project Kangaroo, a multi-channel (BBC, C4, Sky?) development of today's existing download stuff.

    Fail, because there's no credible way that most UK ISPs and most UK phonelines can cope with the bandwidth you need to deliver worthwhile quantities of HD content on demand (and please don't say multicast will make it work).

    Fail, because it involves BT as provider of something more complex than a copper pair. If it's to do with broadband and BT, it will either not work right (if it's BTwoolsale) or be overpriced (if it's BT Retail).

    Fail, because Joe Public really doesn't need (never mind want) yet another set top box, especially one that's locked to BT or partner operators.

    Fail, because it's too complicated technically and commercially. FFS the Beeb haven't even delivered the Creative Archive yet and that technically trivial but commercially challenging project was announced over five years ago:

    Fail fail fail fail fail.

    Pirate, 'cos they know about content delivery networks.

  9. Dr. Mouse

    @Comments RE tv license

    Actually, my friend, who has recently decided not to watch TV, instead relying on DVDs etc, was told by the TV licensing ppl that if reception equipment is 'detuned', ie you can not select any channels, you did not need a license. So she has kept her big screen TVs, disconnected the aerials, and watches DVDs on them.

    Similarly, I would expect that the TVOD Freeview boxes would receive their on-demand stuff from the internet (as how else could true TVOD work over freeview? there is not enough bandwidth available). Therefore if you tuned the box so it could not pick up the freeview multiplexes then you would not need a license.

    The only problem would come if it somehow needed the freeview broadcast signal to operate (e.g. they sent out listings info on a data channel on freeview, which was needed to dl the content), although I am sure someone out there would find a way around that.

  10. Sooty

    sounds good

    I can't get a freeview signal where i live, and i flatly refuse to pay virgin a £170 'installation' fee + an extra £5 a month* for them to unplug my old box and plug in a HD box instead, so some sort of HDTV box that works over broadband would be nice**

    *I don't care about V+, recording and pausing live tv etc, thats what i pay them for tv on demand for, i just want the HD box.

    **except of course that i would only be able to watch anything in HD for about an hour before Virgin throttled my connection to the point i couldn't get it anymore.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    bbc / bt / mod? data grid...

  12. Daniel Bennett
    Thumb Up

    Woo yay!


    Hope it happens, and fast.

    Watching things on BBC Iplayer internet is nothing like it will be watching it on my HD Telly :)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whats more annoying?

    Not sure what is more annoying... people who cry about the TV license yet watch TV 6x7x365 while probably quite happily spewing up £30+ a month to Virgin/Sky who churn out a few recorded episodes from the US.

    or morons that use the word fail all the time... perhaps the odd fail with an -ed suffix might soften the brutality to the English language.. or maybe the reg could deploy a baton muncher filter to such comments...:)

  14. Peter Mylward
    Thumb Up


    Isn't this just going to be moving the BT Vision box on demand standards across to other STB's (hopefully with some tweaking). Vision now offers BBC (not true Ipalyer content, but close), ITV, 4 and Five catch-up services across on demand via the ADSL QOS link. Don't see why this would be an issue for the vast majority of DSL enabled freeview premises (those with an 'up to 8Mb' service which reliably runs over 2Meg anyhow). Not sure where fail, fail, fail, fail comes into it, tech proven.

  15. Dave

    Re: Licence Fee

    If it doesn't apply to on demand / download, I am sure that the BBC will push for a change so that it does - after all if you have a telly then you must be watching the BBCs content and therefore have to cough up. ;)

    With that said: I thought that there was something in the news that a "broadcast" was any transmission of a program regardless of timeshifting so any receiving device even for streamed content was susceptable to the licence fee? I could have sworn I read that somewhere, may be on El' Reg... but now I am not at all sure! And it may not even have been about the UK. Maybe to do with TiVo or something in the US? Oh well :S I am now too confused! :)

    OTOH: has anyone in the UK noticed how the very first piece of mail you receive whenever you move is ... from the TV Licensing people?! Nice that they think of you and welcome you to your new home ;)

  16. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


    I'm sure that the old license contained a phrase about "owning equipment capable of receiving a TV signal", but that predated broadcasts over the Internet.

    I got involved in an Email discussion with Castle Communications (who issue and enforce the TV license) about computer based freeview adapters, and was shown the earlier quoted text, but it had not registered that this clause gave you a way out. I found out that you can use mobile (i.e. not mains powered) TV receivers legally anywhere as long as you have a TV license at home, but as soon as you plug it into the wall, it is illegal unless the location is covered by a license.

    Remember, it is up to them to prove that you are using TV receiving equipment, and they do not have a statutory-right-of-entry to your house.

    Mine has the TV license in the inside pocket, in case I am challenged when using my laptop (please note, ON BATTERY POWER) to watch TV.

  17. Steven Jones

    Local Caching

    I assume this will work by local media caches in the network closer to the point of consumption to which any service provider can connect (at the moment it all has to go back to central points). It won't help with capacity issues on the copper pair, but it will help greatly reduce the bandwidth futher upstream. That also includes the content providers bandwidth and server capacity.

    In fact if this is done properly then it could be used as a way of distribution from "edge-of-network" as well by allowing the peering of caches across the core. Good for read only stuff - it would certainly help the likes of YouTube and allow them to distribute much higher bandwidth content without crippling network charges (that's if they have most of their access to a minority of the videos).

    Add a bit more computing intelligence into the network at local points of presence (maybe on virtualisation famrs) and you could even distribute application functionality alongside content so that it is closer to the user with lower latency (for some things the speed of light - or at least the propogation peed of a signal down copper/optical fibre is the limiting factor). Of course producing standards for this is going to be tricky indeed.

  18. Martin Fowler
    Paris Hilton

    RE: Fail, in so many ways

    Glad to see someone has taken up the mantle of voice of the public, and speaking so vehemently on they're behalf as well. The public i imagine, will be most pleased to have an AC as they're spokesperson.

    Paris because she knows the real meaning of FAIL

  19. Steve Sutton

    @Peter Gathercole

    I don't know how far you are going back, but I would guess that it pre-dates VCRs, when the only practical use for a television would be to watch broadcasts, and such wording would be used so that people could be prosecuted for watching TV without having to prove a specific occasion when they actually did so (what reason/excuse do you have for owning a working TV if you claim you don't watch broadcasts).

    The advent of VCRs meant that it was possible/plausible for people to own capable equipment without necessarily watching broadcasts, so the wording would have had to change, to penalise only those who actually watch broadcasts).

  20. Anonymous Coward


    Oh I see, so BT feel its acceptable to throttle services such as iPlayer until they figure out a way to make some money out of it. Tell you what BT, perhaps an early gesture towards cosying up with iPlayer would be to allow your existing customers to use their download allowances as they see fit and not decide yourself what they can and can't download?

  21. Jess

    The license is for installation and use.

    If you plug in a TV aerial you need a license. A TV in storage does not need one, neither does one used just for watching DVDs.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Could be very good - Freeview + Browser + Email client

    "standards based open environment for broadband connected digital television receivers"

    If this translates into a Freeview Box + Browser (Sea Monkey)+Email client (Mozilla)+IM (ICQ)+ wifi, we suddenly have a very interesting Digital Switchover programme.

    Last weekend Asda, Clapham Junction were selling digital receivers for £14.99, and ACER laptops for £250, it did not have a browser equipped STB/receiver for £50!

    It would be a relief to BTs accountants and shareholders alike if such a device appeared, as it would reduce the burden caused by BT Vision. The STB suppliers must have these designed and ready to fly.

  23. A J Stiles

    Stop bitching about the licence fee!

    Will you all shut up about the bloody licence fee already?

    It's what you pay not to have advertisements on TV. Most satellite stations are unwatchable without some kind of recorder, due to the sheer amount of advertisements they broadcast.

    Also, the BBC are funded by *us* *the* *viewers*. Not by advertisers (who have the option to withdraw their money unless they like the programmes the broadcasters are making. Do you think Cadbury's would sponsor a documentary on how chocolate caused cancer?) or the government (who have the option to withdraw their money unless they like the programmes the broadcasters are making. Do you think the Government would pay for a programme that exposed them as incompetent?), but by the very people who watch the programmes they make.

    Both communism (where the workers control the means of production) and capitalism (where a few rich fatcats control the means of production) miss the mark. At least the BBC's funding model is closer to the situation where the means of production is controlled by the poor sod who has to buy the products.

    Honestly, they should have just decided when we went all-digital (and therefore required every TV receiver to be replaced) to scramble all the broadcasts and made you buy a viewing card -- no payment, no picture. I wonder who was responsible for them *not* doing it that way?

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