Japanese Consumers Protest at Broadcast Flag

Japanese television viewers have begun complaining to broadcasters over the sudden removal of editing and copying freedoms they’re experiencing now that the country’s version of the broadcast flag has been rolled out on digital terrestrial and cable channels.

NHK and and the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters launched the broadcast flag on 5 April, limiting viewers to a single copy of programmes carrying the signal. As programmes can only be copied once, no editing can be performed either. Within a week NHK and other broadcasters had received 15,000 complaints and enquiries.

This move also means that Japanese consumers will not be able to remove adverts from programmes they have recorded for archiving, or make a backup in case an offline recording is destroyed.

Furthermore, viewers have to insert a user identification card, B-CAS (from the company who manufactures them, BS Conditional Access Systems), into their digital televisions in order to watch broadcasts.

It’ll be interesting to see the scale of protest when America’s broadcast flag system rolls out in just over a year and a month – whilst not requiring an ID card to access broadcasts, the flag will tell all new television sets what can and can’t be done to a signal – right down to preventing any copying whatsoever.

Japan Times coverage

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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?