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Free TV Australia announces plans for Industry Supported EPG

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Free TV Australia announced today that an EPG for Australia is in the pipeline – and that the commercial broadcasters have agreed to :

"make their program listings information available to manufacturers of set top boxes, personal video recorders (PVRs) and other service providers provided the equipment displaying the EPG complies with some base level requirements designed to protect copyright, protect the integrity of the program information and facilitate collection of ratings information."

What these "base level requirements" are exactly – and when the actual EPG might appear – are some details I’m a little dubious of – given there’s been a few official announcements around an EPG over past few years (from FreeTV an DBA) – and very little action. However it seems like a positive step forward in the journey towards having an EPG – as a basic outline of some requirements was at least given this time (in the past it was just announcements of everyone ‘agreeing’ to talk).

I’m also a little unclear if this means MediaCenter may eventually get an ‘official’ EPG for Australia – as there was no real mention computer based PVR’s – and it’s a big unknown still if MediaCenter will be able to comply with these ‘base level requirements" out of the box. (very unlikely)

Going by the past history of government regulated tech rollouts in Australia however (DVB-T "AU")- there’s a high chance it’s not going to use any ‘common’ standards and specific "Australia Only" features may need to be implemented by a PVR maker before it can work.

Hence a likely outcome of this – is that we won’t actually get an official MediaCenter EPG. Instead, companies such as IceTV will continue to offer a service where this official EPG data is massaged into a format that is MediaCenter ready – and provide the additional components for gathering ratings data etc as needed for compliance. I’m sure that once these rules are decided upon – many other companies (now underground) may also offer similar commercial EPG services to IceTV, and make the market a little more competative (without risk of being sued).

In any case – this announcement *hopefully* means good things are coming for PVR users at some point – rather than later (or never).

Update :  Some more articles have appeared in the press this morning – one from news.com.au indicating a "3 month time frame" for rollout of these services. The bad news is that it’s very much looking like something not digestible for MediaCenter owners – as even Foxtel’s IQ has been flagged as being ‘not compliant’ with the requirements/conditions being set out. (and hence Foxtel users will not receive this free to air EPG either).

From what I understand of the yet to be activated DRM functionality in MediaCenter/DVB-T/DVR-MS – available functions are mainly based around not being able to copy the recorded tv file to other machines /and/ observing a ‘Do Not Record’ flag set by the broadcaster (similar to how it works on DRM protected music) – and not around supressing the 30 sec ad-skips (which appears to be one of "basic requirements" for using the Australian EPG Service). Although with a fair amount of hacking / patching (and breaching of the Microsoft EULA) – it’s possible some 3rd party may be able to provide a fix which removes the 30 second skip feature on MediaCenter – but you can be assured it won’t be an elegant solution at all. Same could be said about ratings/tracking of tv usage – there’s some basic stuff built in to MediaCenter – but unlikely it’s the exact solution required for compliance.

So it’s again looking like whats going to come out of this will be (yet another system) which requires companies to spend large amounts of $$ making their PVR systems complaint with an "Australian Only" set of restrictions. (which in MOST cases means it ‘wont’ happen – as the Australian marketplace is far to small by world standards to ever justify this sort of investment). We do know however that have already missed out on a lot of the features of Digital TV on MediaCenter in the past (Teletex, Subtitles, ITV etc) – due to our version of "DVB-T" being somewhat different to how DVB-T is implemented in the UK and other big markets.  So it’s again not looking like the solution we were waiting for – and likely any "compliant" system will carry a hefty price premium at the cash register.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by mobilewares

July 5, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Vista MediaCenter

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