ITC warns set-top makers 'don't confuse consumers'

ITC warns set-top makers ‘don’t confuse consumers’
Melanie Reynolds The government’s broadcasting watchdog has issued a warning to set-top box receiver manufacturers and broadcasters as it draws up the technical guidelines for the introduction of digital TV services later this year. The Independent Television Commission (ITC) wants to ensure that viewers know what they are paying for when they buy the digital set-top boxes needed to receive digital TV services. “What the viewer plugs in must be able to do what he expects it to do,” said Peter Rogers, ITC chief executive. “We don’t want the consumer to be confused.” Action against a digital TV broadcaster that does not fulfil its licence conditions can be taken by the ITC, but the watchdog cannot stop set-top boxes being sold that do not conform to the document. “We are not all powerful and don’t aspire to be,” said Rogers. The ITC is hoping to clarify standards for the interoperability and open access of digital television services from competing satellite and terrestrial broadcasters with the publication of a consultation document. It proposes a framework of digital transmission standards as well as a requirement for service providers to support reception of their services on open standard integrated digital televisions. According to the ITC, satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) has concerns over open access creating difficulties in making receiver chips piracy proof. But, the ITC does not accept that open access makes piracy any more likely. Last month BSkyB issued a writ against digital terrestrial TV broadcaster British Digital Broadcasting (BDB) following BDB’s decision to use the SECA conditional access system which it believed was incompatible with its own and which was not part of an agreement struck when BSkyB agreed to quit the BDB consortium before it won the licence. There has now been positive dialogue between the two on the issue of interoperability, according to the ITC. Standards for terrestrial, satellite, cable and microwave digital televisions are all covered in the document which the ITC is inviting the industry to comment on by July 10.

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