23 Feb 2007 dwmw2   » (Master)

Much as I hate to advocate the use of dead tree in the 21st century, I actually concluded that was the best way to provide feedback to the BBC about their proposal to inflict DRM on the licence payer and require the use of recent versions of Windows.

It isn't particularly hard to stir up a storm of semi-coherent emails all making the same points -- people can even cut and paste the best bits. You don't have to care much to send an email; it only takes a few moments. Especially amongst the less technical, a real letter unfortunately does seem to hold more weight than contemporary means of communication.

That's why I spent a day or so putting my thoughts down on paper rather than just submitting them electronically -- much to the amazement of those who've heard me rant so frequently about the archaic practice of physically transporting dead tree around the planet.

I'm also very tempted to write to my Member of Parliament about the issue. Although the BBC is independent and doesn't answer directly to Parliament, it is a public body and is held to account by the government for its behaviour.

The BBC is, in general, extremely careful to be seen to be independent -- not just politically but also commercially. To quote but one example, it even goes as far as to make up fictional packets for breakfast cereals in its drama programmes, to avoid "advertising" one particular product even so subtley.

Yet today we see them proposing not only to endorse a single company's commercial product, but to enforce its use, and to exclude all competition. That would be entirely unacceptable behaviour on the part of the BBC, and is the kind of thing which I would expect to lead to discussions in government and a very public slap on the wrist for those concerned.

It's weird, because the BBC know that what they're doing is wrong, and they've even taken steps to correct it in very similar circumstances in the past. In 2003, they renegotiated their contract with the satellite broadcaster BSkyB to ensure that their satellite broadcasts are now unencrypted and can be received by anyone with standard equipment -- rather than being tied in to using equipment from a single vendor.

I hear rumours from insiders that the gratuitous use of DRM is a posterior-covering exercise from a BBC exec; being used to justify certain flawed technical decisions which have been made in the past. As much as I dislike the idea that the rumour could be true, it certainly seems to make more sense than the idea that the BBC have completely lost the plot.

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