Open Letter: What does EC "support" mean?

MJ Ray mjr at
Wed Aug 11 14:43:15 UTC 2004

I will probably send this to infso-desk at in a few days, but 
I'd appreciate comments sooner, if you have them. This affects free 
software's ability to display and use interactive digital television 
services, such as Linux-based PVRs.

I note with interest the publication of "Interactive TV : Commission 
reiterates its support for open and interoperable standards, but says 
implementation should not be made legally binding" at

Please note that I don't really understand what this support entails, 
if it does not (for example) require public-funded broadcasters to 
implement an open interactive TV platform before any closed one. In 
the UK, the BBC has interactive TV on DVB-T which I think might be 
MHP-based (I can't receive it, being outside the coverage area), but 
the DVB-S domestic service on Astra2 uses the dominant proprietary 
Sky/OpenTV platform. The BBC hasn't even implemented a full DVB-SI EIT 
(7-day electronic programme guide) or DVB-TXT (teletext) on DVB-S, as 
I mentioned in 
and elsewhere, so users wanting programmable Personal Video Recorders 
(PVRs) are almost forced to purchase Sky's + system instead of a 
DVB-standard set. Basic DVB-S equipment retails from around 80 pounds 
sterling, 33% cheaper than Sky, but has very little market share, as 
far as I can tell.

For comparison, I believe German broadcasters - ARD, ZDF and various 
regional chains - broadcast DVB-TXT, fuller DVB-SI EIT and are 
developing MHP-based interactive services. Further, experience during 
visits to Germany suggests there is competition between manufacturers 
and retailers, both broadcaster-backed (Premiere, for example) and 

Will the commission act against the UK Department of Culture, Media 
and Sport's failure to ensure the BBC supports open and interoperable 
standards for its DVB-S services, under Article 18 of Directive 

MJR/slef    My Opinion Only and not of any group I know for creative copyleft computing
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