1st July 2005 – the Broadcast Flag Comes to American Television

From July 2005, every digital TV tuner sold in North America, whether a card or standalone television set, will incorporate a chip listening out for the Advanced Television Systems Committee Flag, or “broadcast flag” as it has become known.

Devised by the Motion Picture Association of America, the broadcast flag is a technology where broadcasters will be able to control whether or not a home viewer can make a digital copy of a particular programme. If a programme has the flag set, receivers disable their digital outputs – so if a viewer wishes to make a copy, it will have to be onto analogue tape, or onto special low-resolution DVDs.

Needless to say the flag has had a somewhat mixed reception – as do most initiatives where the default position is to mistrust the customer.

But what will the flag be capable of in the future? Further incarnations of the technology could be used to prevent viewers from skipping adverts, or even preventing time shifting.

“Losing Control of Your TV”

Published by

Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?