back to article BBC Trust won't probe iPlayer open source gripes

The governing body of the BBC has no plans to investigate the Corporation's decision to block open source implementations of RTMP (real-time messaging protocol) streaming in the iPlayer, despite grumbles from many UK viewers and listeners of the service. "The decision to block open source plugins is a matter for BBC Management …


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  1. The BigYin

    No complaints?

    We'll see about that I guess. I'll get mine off in the next day or so.

    The "content providers" did not expect people to watch TV programs on their TV? Just how monumentally stupid are these "content providers"? A TV is just a display screen for video content, whatever the delivery mechanism (aerial, satellite, VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, cable or internet). They are all the same once the stream is flowing in the home. So OF COURSE folks watch on their TV! FFS!

    As for deep linking, what the HELL does that have to do with this? I thought they filtered based on IP? So the number of "nawty" programs able to purloin content should be vanishingly small. Deep link or no, if you have your security set-up properly (and as we were lead to believe) then requests from unatned IPs will simply not get through or get redirected (a la AdultSwim).

    We shall, of course, ignore the basic flaw in all of this; which is that trying to regionally restrict content in a network that is by design GLOBAL is like trying to empty a reservoir with a sieve. It's a lot of work, some folks will get rich providing a service to do it, but in the end it is utterly futile.

    Hence all the barriers the governments are now trying to place on the net. A populace divided is a populace monetised and controlled. The net can probably withstand a nuclear strike, but it is powerless again the RIAA and their lawyers.

  2. Peter Galbavy

    When is a complaint not a complaint ? When you're not important...

    "The Trust has not received any complaints on this issue and has no plans to look into it further at present"

    I love the way organisations like the BBC Trust push back on complaints by claiming that there are no complaints. A bit like a supermarket trying to explain to irate customers why they now put organic dairy in one aisle and normal dairy in another by saying "customers have told us they prefer it this way" - "Oh Yeah? Who? Not us..."

    If you know the "secret sauce" then you can make a complaint and one that is treated as such - but the secret sauce is just that, secret. Any other "complaints" to the BBC Trust are simply treated as "comments".

    1. KnucklesTheDog


      Yes, the interesting parts of this article are:

      "The Trust has not received any complaints on this issue"

      "BBC forums were awash with complaints"

      "iPlayer users who complain about the open source plugin exclusion ... shouldn't expect a response anytime soon"

      So not complaining specifically to the "correct" recipient is a waste of time. And complaining to the correct recipient is also a waste of time. Do the BBC show Brazil as part of the new employees induction programme?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Slightly off topic but...

      Long ago, BBC World Service "regionalised" their programming. What did this mean? Well it meant... well actually it meant a lot of doublespeak for moving things around a lot and confusing people. However, the practical upshot of it was that whilst tuning into the footie on a Saturday afternoon, half-way through the 2nd half, the regionally scheduled program would kick in. Yes, I know, ridiculous.

      Lots of people complained about this "regionalisation" and the listener complaints program took it up with the appropriate controller whose response was (and I kid you not):

      "We believe that the majority of people want these changes and the people who are complaining are nothing more than a vocal minority."

      In other words, if I don't complain I'm stuck with the crappy change and if I do complain I'm in a vocal minority which exists only to be ignored.

      I believe that if I tune into the footie now, I get the whole of the footie but it's been a long time since I listened in.

      I'm a great BBC supporter (trust me, in comparison with most of the programming available where I live in Europe, it's wonderful) but sometimes the sheer arrogance of the BBC producers/heads amazes me.

  3. Jerome 0


    "which demonstrates well the Beeb's commitment to deliver the iPlayer to as large an audience as possible"

    Yes, they've demonstrated the level of their commitment in that regard quite clearly.

  4. Velv


    "The Trust has not received any complaints on this issue...."

    So if you're an Open Source fan who's sitting on here (or any other forum) whinging about the change of policy, get your complaint in NOW to the BBC Trust.

  5. Kebabster


    Ummm yep, and when you try and make a complaint about iPlayer:

    Step 2 of 5: Describe your complaint

    If you would like to make a complaint about BBC iPlayer, please do so via the BBC iPlayer help site.

    On which there already are posts regarding the XBMC issue, so what do they want us to do again????

    1. Rob Aley


      Use the form to make a complaint about not being able to make a complaint about iPlayer using that form. Simples!

  6. Anonymous Coward

    An open letter to the BBC

    Firstly, about content.

    I do not own a TV, I gave it away after I heard Johnathan Ross ask his guest a question so disgusting that I shall not repeat it here. I am not a prude, I have done sex, drugs and rock'n roll and have traveled extensively. Now even my twisted mind is stuck with that meme.

    As for radio you seem to think that I want to listen to some gobshite trying to be funny rather than hear good music or replace a good format like Home Truths with some smug codswallop.

    In a whole weeks BBC TV output I watch maybe two or three items.

    There is no point having HD rubbish, you cannot polish a turd.

    Secondly, the iPlayer.

    There must be a lot of people like myself who are on a 512kb/s connection but we can watch a Google video by pausing and while it buffers go and make a cup of tea.

    The iPlayer does not and has no facility to stream a low quality version. Most of your programmes could be watched in B&W with no loss of information.

    Why waste your time with DRM? If I wanted to steal your content I could just copy my friends box set of, say, Blue Planet and how would you know? If you only streamed in low quality, people would buy more of your DVDs.

    Discerning folk have abandoned Microsoft and adopted open source purely because of their inbuilt DRM spyware.

    Sorry for the rant, after all it is Monday.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: An open letter to the BBC

      I'm not sure the BBC would see your letter here. You're probably better off sending it to the BBC.

      Query: wouldn't it have been more rock'n'roll to throw your television out of your window?

    2. Citizen Kaned


      why are you even trying to watch it? no telly? no tv licence? why the fuck are you trying to watch it then? remember that this is for us PAYING customers. if you still pay your licence fee then disregard that.

      im no big fan of the bbc as i find it expensive for the odd program i watch. it might even be cheaper to buy box sets than have a licence.

      but this isnt a TV license its a TV tax, let us not forget. thats why i can get 900 channels from virgin for less than i get 4 from the bbc. admittedly the majority is shite, but then the same could be said for the bbc. bbc HD is a joke, why put all the coffin dodger programs in HD yet hardly anything else? and why not tell people when you are showing heroes a week early like it has done a few times. why not use radio 1 to enlighten those of us who have it streamed in the office that bbc programs are on, not keep banging about the oh so lame sounding 'glee'.

      the bbc has to remember who pays the licences, the TV viewers. so stop with all the bloody radio stations (1 extra, asian networks etc) and the 2 additional TV stations (3 & 4) which rarely have anything decent on, and if if they did they never tell anybody about them so you miss them. dont they realise they are wasting all the 3.4 billion on useless streams and providing for people that dont even have a licence.

      i await the flames lol. mine's the asbestos one.

      1. The BigYin

        Becasue it's legal?

        You only need a license fee in the UK to watch/listen to a live broadcast.

  7. Professor Quatermass

    Open platforms, content worth £135.50 per annum

    The BBC really need to rethink their place in our society - and we need to reconsider how their efforts are funded.

    The BBC should create common platforms into which any and all UK-based publishers can pour their content without restrictions.

    Now that I actually pay the licence fee I want service for my money. And very much hope the next government will hold the BBC to account. Perhaps an a la carte subscription model? A US public radio model? The BBC need to work harder for my money ...

    1. Al Jones
      Thumb Down

      A US public radio model?

      God no - week long "telethons" 3 or 4 times a year?

  8. The BigYin


    ...that the consultation done (link is in the story) with as much anti-proprietary comments as I could must.

    The complaint is next.

    I've done my bit, have you?

  9. Alex King


    No, I think it's safe to say that the constituency of Wii, PS3 etc owners is larger than that of the 'openistas'.

    In the real world, the BBC has to keep its content providers happy in order that they agree for their stuff to be shown via these new channels. No matter how valid or invalid the reasons content providers have for doubting the security of a given system, if they have these doubts then the content will be pulled.

    So, the choice comes down to a content rich service which keeps the corporates happy and is accessible in a way that is acceptible to 99.9% of potential users, or the openistas have their way and we get less stuff but keep 100% of people happy.

    There's so much whinging that goes on on this topic - ten years ago we didn't have iPlayer on any platform, or PVRs - we'd only just got our mits on digiboxes for pete's sake. Now we can watch programmes on our TVs, through our games consoles, PCs, Macs, phones at pretty much whatever time we want. Yet we're still annoyed because it doesn't function on a tiny minority of people's setups? You lot want the moon on a stick you do!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TV licence

    Is an unfair tax that is aggressively enforced without any evidence and based on the >50% repeat of content on UK tv as a whole (there was a reg story on this), I don't own an TV anymore.

    I find i can get any and all content i do want (and its a small amount) via the web through various services and a little torrenting. Most of that is US shows that come from HBO or similarly adventurous content makers.

    Sadly even the US are leading us in comedy too (modern family).

    Err BBC who?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Sir Humphrey

    "The Trust has not received any complaints on this issue "

    You need to formally complain, in writing, to:

    Sir Michael Lyons

    BBC Trust Unit

    180 Great Portland Street


    W1W 5QZ

    How many of us are going to do that ? None - they know snail mail is a sigfinifant deterrent.

    These guys are mandarins of the highest order. They can block and delay matters to suit their purposes.

    Never mind.

  12. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    There is no such thing as a secure encrypted stream...

    ......unless the stream remains unwatchable on your computer.

    Basically, as the stream is DECODED so you can VIEW IT, the decryption key HAS to be made available to you.

    Simple knowledge of the format, along with tcpdump will get you the key.

    Adobe is wrong to promote 'secure content'.

    Explained better here:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Beset endevours

      It's a question of best endevours, they probably won't be bothering to stop everyone, just raise the bar high enough that it's really difficult for the average, or slightly above average, guy in the street to get their content.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge


        That's a fair point, but what I meant was that Adobe should SAY that is what they are doing, and not pretend that because it's encrypted with a strong encryption routine, it can't be broken. says:


        "If it's true that content is king, then how do you protect the kingdom? How can you safely deliver audio and video content using Macromedia Flash while maintaining the utmost control and protection over it?

        Flash has very strong, built-in digital media protection capabilities when you stream your content with Flash Media Server. With an API for enabling publishers to hook up external rights management capabilities, Flash Media Server provides a very practical solution for providing digital rights management (DRM) around streaming content."


        Which is misleading, at best.

  13. Doc Spock

    Time-shifting is LEGAL is it not?

    "The Beeb only allows a device access to its content after checking that such a plugin isn't taking a stealth download to ... keep the data for more than seven days ..."

    How exactly is that any different to recording the program via a VCR when using the iPlayer on Virgin? That is, how is time-shifting an iPlayer program using software on your computer any different to time-shifting it with a VCR?

    (sharing your time-shifted recordings has always been illegal, and I have no issues with that - it's the BBC's presumption that all users of such software will share their recordings that really gets my goat)

    Plus, all the iPlayer programmes are watermarked with the BBC logo and, with the exception of HD stuff, lower quality that DVD. The HD (just) stuff is ~2.5Mbit/s 720p (~1.2GB per hour) with stereo audio so is well below what Blu-ray gives you.

    1. johnnytruant

      time-shifting is not even the issue

      One can time-shift with a number of available on the internet scripts already. They still work. They either resume downloads after the verification kicks in, meaning the BBC's servers get even more hammered with requests, or they just spoof verification and carry on as normal.

      What doesn't work is the iPlayer plugin for XBMC. That was totally legal as it streamed, not downloaded. The BBC even went as far to recommend this plugin's use on the backstage pages. Another thing that doesn't work is the iPlayer plugin for Totem - which the BBC actually contributed code for!

      It would be a few hours work - if that - for someone to hack the various plugins so they spoofed SWF verification, but the XBMC/Totem teams don't want to do that as it's illegal under the DMCA (yes, I know iPlayer is only in the UK, but it's bypassing code produced by Adobe in the US - they already went after another flash-related ripping script, hosted in the UK, on the same thing)

      Nothing the BBC do will stop people sharing their content if they want to. Nothing at all. I've heard (*ahem*) that almost all torrents of BBC programmes are direct rips from their DVB broadcasts, not iPlayer. What are they going to do - stop broadcasting TV? 'cos that's the only thing that would stop the pirates.

      What they can do is stop pushing people to using torrents and illegal iPlayer downloaders by making it easy to use their existing, perfectly legal, systems. iPlayer via XBMC is lovely. So much nicer than the BBC's rubbishy interface, no flash to be all slow and insecure and ugly - and all up on my TV too.

  14. John White

    TV tax = advertising

    to all the licence fee whingers - get a life. I don't like adverts interrupting my programs and don't watch much commercial TV live as a consequence. OTOH I don't like the 'tax' I pay on almost all goods I buy and want to opt out of paying it but I have no say in being made to pay it.

    It's called advertising

    get over it, TV costs money, has to be paid for in some way and advertising is just as much a 'tax' as the licence fee - have no say in how much is added to the goods I buy; have no say how it is spent; cannot deduct it from goods I buy (food; gas; elec; insurance; banking ....)

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  16. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


    I assumed that the article was meant to say "content providers did not expect people to watch TV programs on their PC". So that when people did so, and used third-party, copyright-insecure software to do it, it was a problem.

    Then again, iPlayer is now delivering content on several TV-connected appliances, an experience pretty much as satisfying as watching the current broadcast - or the DVD - instead of a little window on your PC. Maybe THAT'S what content providers are surprised about.

  17. Anonymous Coward


    "I'm told that most of iPlayer is built on open source products, so this isn't about the BBC being anti open source."

    Oh no, not at all! Evidently, it's not "free as in beer" or "free as in speech" that dominates the Beeb mindset: it's "free as in freeloading" where the Beeb is as guilty as everyone at whom they point the corporate finger. Meanwhile, who cares what constitutes the back-end if the Beeb's only interested in a proprietary platform for the delivery of proprietary content? Some open source people may get a warm feeling that people are merely using their stuff, but many such developers would rather their stuff is not the stuff that others use to give other people the shaft.

    But this is standard behaviour for the Broadcaster of the Britards, thinking that the Internet might still be shoehorned into the Radio Times if they can sustain the obsolete "now playing" and "prime-time" nonsense on their captive audience. Meanwhile, Britards, be proud that your licence fee is merely the seed money for the BBC executives and chums to cream off the commercial revenue from such market distorting vehicles as - that's right - the Radio Times and the rest of the advert-funded portfolio, spammed in your faces regularly in the supposedly advert-free medium of the Beebtards.

  18. andrew mulcock

    copyrigth date

    Have you noticed the copyright date at the bottom of the screen of the consultation ?

    they can't even get the date right,

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Maybe the page was put up in 2009, and that's when they copyrighted it? Just a thought.

  19. heyrick Silver badge

    EPIC FAIL and sufferage...

    It is like all the "games" regarding DRM and content protection, from nobbled discs in 8 bit days to HDCP on HDMI.

    If there is a will to get around a form of content protection, it will be done. It will be a constant battle between those protecting the content and those who want it. In the middle, innocent everyday users will get caught and disadvantaged. Such disadvantage will serve only to annoy, which will make them more likely to feel inclined towards the dark side... which will make the game self continuing. The only answer, to quote Joshua, is not to play. If their content was more open, it may be treated with more respect. But, hey, p!ss on one law you might as well go the whole way and download it for future prosperity (never mind the 7 days thing)...

    FWIW, I have no access to iPlayer (live in France), but an IP spoof and decent UK based proxy would probably get around that... if there was anything worth watching.

    1. Robert E A Harvey


      yes, it does. But you are only cut off from TV & the odd thing on radio3. Most of radio you can 'ave

  20. OSC

    same old story

    The Open Source Consortium put a lot of work into arguing with the BBC that they should not be distorting the market for software platforms by making arbitrary decisions regarding content protection.

    There is no consistency in the BBC arguments, they made iPlayer available in an un DRMed MP4 format for the iPhone, they explained on their website how to avoid the DRM on iPlayer.

    The whole system is based on a presumption of guilt and lack of trust. Everyone knows that ultimately content is stealable by those that are determined. DRM just makes things awkward for everyone else.

    This action limits your ability to use software other than software provided by those that would take that control away from you. It adds cost to your computing as you get locked into a software upgrade cycle forced upon you by a popular service ultimately funded by you in the first place.

    We will be attempting to address this issue formally.

    If people want to help - we're easy to find. We could well do with a freedom inclined lawyer on the team if there are any volunteers. We'll do the leg work.

  21. Jules 1

    There has been a change?

    My preferred method of time shifting media from the iplayer, the "get_iplayer" script still appears to work fine (thought there was an automatic update on february 19th). I'm downloading a radio show right now.

    So much for adobe market lock-in.....

  22. Stephen B Streater

    Demonstration outside BBC

    This all reminds me of when the iPlayer was launched as a Windows only system - despite a cross platform solution having been available to the the BBC for five years. I filmed a protest outside the BBC (not reported by the BBC of course) on my mobile and published it here:

  23. doge

    Right hand and left hand

    Mark Thomson says:

    "The BBC should also help guarantee access. While technology and distribution must always be means and not ends for the BBC, it has a special role to develop and back open platforms and standards. It should defend the public's right to choose rather than to have choices made for them, and we should therefore continue to invest in open broadcast platforms."

    So the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

    I quote again, "...develop and back open platforms and standards...".

    So why are they

    1 Seeking Ofcom to approve the use of proprietary DRM on HD TV (EPG) programming?

    2 Using Adobe's proprietary Flash technology to stream to the iPlayer, and now introducing without any approval "SWF Verification", effectively DRM, onto iPlayer content.

    There is a lot of backhand stuff going down at the BBC as they struggle in the fight with misguided rights owners (i.e. big Hollywood studios) who are demanding protection for their media, media which the BBC cannot do without as it doesn't produce enough of its own to fill its HD TV or plain TV air time.

    And yet we hear nothing about the BBC's stand on rights, they just buckle under rather than standing up as a "Public Broadcaster" against restrictive and useless DRM.

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