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Thursday 13 March 2003

BBC gives Sky the arse! [lurks]

One of the things that always fucked me off about the BSkyB Murdoch empire is the stranglehold on satellite in the UK. I have no truck with someone setting up a satellite system as complete as Sky, they should be congratulated on that. And much as it annoys me, I must also take my hat off to them for coming up with the proprietary encryption system Videoguard and, thus far, keeping it secure.
What fucks me off is the fact that the regular terrestrial channels have been bundled on the Sky model. A hell of a lot of people have been virtually conned into signing up to Sky because that's where you've had to go for the regular channels via satellite. It's particularly ridiculous when you look at the fact they still charge for their base package which is essentially comprised of content paid for by adverts and your license fee.
Well, tonight I got blindsided by the news that all that is set to change. See at the moment BSkyB is plonked on satellite transporters whose signal footprint targets quite a lot of Europe. So... the BBC (and ITV and Channel 4, 5 etc) has paid BSkyB millions of pounds to use those transponders. Then they all get encrypted with that annoying Videoguard stuff to keep Johnny Foreigner from watching the Beeb wot they didn't pay for, you with me?
Well what's happening is that the Beeb has given the finger to Sky and they're moving to a new satellite which has transponders tightly targeting the UK. Different satellite but pretty much the same orbital position of 28 degrees East so no one needs to move a dish or anything. As a result of that, they'll be going 'clear' or Free to Air. No viewing card necessary, no satellite receiver with decryption hardware necessary either. A practical upshot will be you can watch all the BBC content and even capture the raw MPEG2 to hard disk in your own PC-driven PVR solution. The same will doubtless be true of the commercial terrestrial channels too.
Of course the BBC will still have to pay Sky to keep the channel details on the EPG. That's the Electronic Program Guide, the thing you see on your Sky when you hit the tv guide button. See since Sky basically supplied the vast bulk of the digital receivers, they run a data service which contains a list of channels. Each channel with the appropriate frequency, horizontal or vertical polarization and the data rate or symbol rate. Oh and what's on that channel now, next etc.
Everyone needs to be on that and of course Sky have their own ideas on what should and shouldn't be on it. There's actually quite a lot of stations you can get on a Sky digibox by feeding in channels manually because they're not on the EPG. It seems likely they'll try play hardball, especially given the extra demands the BBC will place on the EPG via the shit load of extra regional versions of the BBC which they want to get on satellite (half the point of this move). So then the BBC will most likely have to go to the regulators.
However the BBC will be paying only £30K a year for that instead of the £85 million quid they were paying Sky for the 'privilege of being encrypted specifically for Sky's viewing hardware.
So this is all a 'good thing' really. Finally we'll be able to use PCs as PVRs for the main channels. Of course you'll always be SOL if you want a Sky-only station on your PC but then no one ever said Murdoch was a swell guy. Except for all the newspapers he owns of course.


  1. It's always worth going into your digibox settings and doing a 'find new channels'. Often seems to come up with ones you've not got on your EPG.

  2. That's good. I've got a (big style) dish on the side of myhouse from the previous owners. Add one mpeg card & I've got a second video recorder :)