Don't petition the PM about the BBC

by Giles Turnbull

Our esteemed colleagues at TUAW have suggested that UK-based Mac users might want to sign a petition calling on Tony Blair to:

prevent the BBC from making its iPlayer on-demand television service available to Windows users only, and instruct the corporation to provide its service for other operating systems also.

If only it were that easy. While the BBC is funded by public subscription, it is no more under the Prime Minister’s control than any of the commercial TV stations in the UK. Indeed, it has a history of winding governments and Prime Ministers up the wrong way, and there’s not a great deal they can do about it.

The cause is a worthy one, and any attempt to tie up content in MS-favourable DRM would probably be met with outcry. But this petition isn't the way to deal with it.

So my advice to British Mac users with an opinion on this is not to sign the petition at, but rather to read, and respond to, the BBC’s own consultation document. Comments made there will have far more impact.


Chris R
2007-02-26 06:40:45
Yes indeed. As far as I'm concerned it is the fact that the BBC is independent of government and commercial interests that makes it so valuable. That's why we need to avoid its on demand services being Windows-only. As I said in my response to the consultation, would the BBC consider transmitting programmes that could only be watched on a particular brand of TV?
Tom B
2007-02-26 11:28:59
They might just as well tie their future as a network to 8-track tapes as to use MSFT technology, which is already on the wane, at least with regards to the content-side.
2007-02-26 11:29:59
> "would the BBC consider transmitting programmes that could only be watched on a particular brand of TV?"

Ooh, I said that too!

The BBC Trust seems pretty set on making sure the BBC doesn't go the Windows-only route, which makes me like them despite not being entirely clear on who they are. But they're doing good.

2007-02-26 12:35:29
It may not be effective in petitioning the Prime Minister due to the reasons you give. However, there was another petition "Ban the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies for digital content" ( ) which has now ended. The PM's response contained:
"...DRM does not only act as a policeman through technical protection measures, it also enables content companies to offer the consumer unprecedented choice in terms of how they consume content, and the corresponding price they wish to pay."

I don't think Norway would agree with the PM's opinion on DRM!

Although it may be 'pointless' to sign the petition, at least signing the petition does make the government more aware of people's opinions on DRM. It's not likely there'll be anything like a referendum on the matter but it's one way we have of of voicing our opinion.

I also agree with pauldwaite's comment that the BBC Trust do seem set to avoid the Windows-only route before too long, what solution they choose to avoid a Windows lock-in with remains to be seen (I hope BBC will create their own cross-platform DRM solution).

It's worth checking out the Backstage Blog at, they have a podcast episode all about DRM and it's well worth listening to if this issue concerns you.

2007-02-26 13:39:59
Sorry, the link for Backstage should be:

2007-02-27 15:12:58
For those wondering what the BBC Trust is - it's an independent, publicly appointed group of people who monitor the BBC - what it does, and what it broadcasts etc, to ensure it stays a public service broadcaster. They are very serious about this - every comment that is made in the consultations is looked at closely - so I'd advise you to make your views known about the present closed nature of the iPlayer as soon as possible via the website link suggested. The issue has already been raised in the Trust I believe, and it certainly has been raised at the local Audience Councils as well, who are feeding their views in.