The planned protests against the BBC, which we reported on a few weeks back, took place today as supporters of the Free Software Foundation (FSC) — dressed in bright yellow Hazmat suits — gathered outside BBC Television Center in London and BBC headquarters in Manchester to demand that DRM be eliminated from the BBC’s iPlayer.
The FSC is accusing the BBC of “corruption” because of the iPlayer’s reliance on Microsoft’s technology and the fact that, prior to joining the public service broadcaster, the controller of the BBC’s Future Media and Technology Group worked for Microsoft as director of its Windows Digital Media division.
The Register reports that nobody from BBC management or the BBC Trust came out to speak to the protesters, although “some BBC staff from technology divisions did engage in discussions, but asked not to be identified.”
In a press release put out by the FSC Executive Director, Peter Brown — who had flown in from the U.S. to attend the event — was quoted as saying:
BBC values have been corrupted because BBC Executives are too closely associated with Microsoft. BBC values have been corrupted because the iPlayer uses proprietary software and standards made under an exclusive deal with Microsoft. BBC values have been corrupted because license fee payers must now own a Microsoft operating system to download BBC programming. BBC values have been corrupted because license fee payers must accept DRM technologies that spy and monitor on the digital files held on their computers. We are here today to help BBC Director General Mark Thompson, clean up this DRM mess, and to encourage the BBC Trust to reverse course and eliminate DRM from the BBC iPlayer.
Pretty strong stuff. Whether I’d go as far as to say that the BBC has been corrupted, I’m not so sure. But I certainly wouldn’t disagree with anybody who argued that after 4 years of R&D and millions of pounds spent, picking a windows-only platform with so many restrictions, simply isn’t good enough. In all that time the BBC should have shopped around for a more flexible solution or developed their own in-house. Instead, what we’ve ended up with is an iPlayer that, from a technology and usability point of view, is hard to distinguish from many competing and commercial offerings (see our recent post ‘Five UK Internet TV offerings compared‘.)