foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

New Zealand's national broadcaster (TVNZ) discriminating against non-Windows users?

, posted: 21-Aug-2008 09:07

Update: It seems that using the gxine plugin, it is possible to view those video streams on Ubuntu anyway. Some people at least got it to work using Epiphany. I can confirm that this does work, but for some reason, it won't work for me with Firefox. But why does TVNZ have to use Silverlight? Why do they talk about DRM in their response? Someone there doesn't quite know what it is they are doing. Apparently they thought they were using DRM but weren't? Or gxine just circumvents it? In that case it would be more of an accident that they are not discriminating against non-Windows users.

I think we can all agree that it should be the role of New Zealand's state broadcaster (TVNZ) to provide programming and content for everyone in New Zealand, and to make it available to New Zealand residents without any discrimination and without putting an undue burden on the people. I mean, TVNZ gets tax funding, right? Tax that is paid by everyone in New Zealand. We should expect that they provide content that is accessible to everyone in New Zealand as well.

Apparently, for the Olympics this overriding mandate was forgotten. Personally, I am not following the Olympics at all, but one of my readers alerted me to this (thank you knoydart). He wanted to watch some of the Olympics video streams from TVNZ with his Ubuntu installation, but couldn't do so. After asking TVNZ about this, he received the following reply:
"TVNZ was required to use Windows Media Player due to compatibility issues around Microsoft Silverlight V 1.0, and digital rights management issues with live streamed content in Flash - as our contract with the IOC requires us to restrict access to video content to a New Zealand-resident audience only."
No, TVNZ, you are doing it wrong! And you are confusing different issues. See, nobody mandates to you that you have to use Silverlight. Thus, YOUR choice of using Silverlight, rather than the much more established Flash - or (gasp!) an open video format like OGG - is at fault here. Don't choose technology that is vendor proprietary, and which restricts the availability of the content only to those who have the funds to pay for a Microsoft license. We paid you already with our taxes and by watching your ads, it's not your business to push one vendor's technology on people and thus making it impossible for the broadest number of people to see your video streams.

Furthermore, TVNZ is getting all mixed up with different technical issues here: Geographicly restricting video streams has been done plenty of times before, even before Silverlight and even with ordinary Flash streaming. You use IP address ranges, available data bases, etc. The geographic restriction has nothing to do with the chosen streaming technology.

And what's that about DRM (which also should have nothing to do with the geographic restriction)? As I said before, DRM is not only limiting a user's freedom, it is also a strike against free software. Thus, Microsoft and other proprietary OS vendors have a vested interest in promoting its use with the media providers: The more media is offered with DRM, the more are consumers forced to use non-free software and operating systems in order to be able to consume this media.

Thus, any media company that pushes out content that is DRM infested is in effect making a statement against free software, whether they are aware of it or not, and are merely supporting the sales and marketing efforts of proprietary software vendors.

How about ... you know ... growing a spine? The IOC's rediculous restrictions on who can watch something, and where and when shouldn't be tolerated anyway. They would quickly stop those restrictions if the broadcasters of the world wouldn't cave in to their demands.

Most importantly, a tax-payer funded broadcaster has NO business at all pushing proprietary vendor's technologies. It should at all times choose open and free standards as default.

Other related posts:
Microsoft Office to support ODF
OOXML gets ISO blessing - bad for all of us
OOXML about to pass? Incredible irregularities reported

Comment by misfit, on 21-Aug-2008 10:51

Don't hate me but I use Windows (XP). However, I can't watch streaming video at TV3's website. Whenever I click the "Watch video" link I get a message saying that it's only available to NZ residents. Ummmm, I *am* an NZ resident and connect through Actrix. Maybe there's something wrong with TV3's IP tables?

Author's note by foobar, on 21-Aug-2008 11:06

@misfit: Why should I hate you? That aside, I also notice that Geekzone itself seems to think I am in Australia, and I am definitely not. I use Xnet here from the Auckland region.

Some of the IP tables that providers have on file for geographic restrictions or identifications seem to have a bug here and there...

Comment by callumb, on 21-Aug-2008 11:15

I quite often read your posts, but lately they all seem to be about the same thing.  Your utter hatred of anything DRM.

Why do you hate DRM so much?

It is NOT your content - you do NOT own it, so why do you think you can dictate what should be done with it?  DRM is a fact of life, the sooner you realise this, the better... for all of us.

Have a nice day :)

Comment by Mark, on 21-Aug-2008 11:16

Yea well its not easy/free for Mac users either - we've gotta buy some 2-bit plugin for Quicktime just to watch it too...


TVNZ needs a good shake-up. I assume you've seen/heard about all the people that got locked outta viewing on their tv unless they had freeview for one of the events.

Comment by Chippo, on 21-Aug-2008 11:22

I asked Tom Cotter, TVNZ general manager content and delivery, this question at the recent Digital Future forum in Auckland. He mentioned that flash just didn't have the capacity for the amount of content they were distributing at the moment.

Media Player streams are encoded once by the server, then streamed out to you. I don't think you can do this with flash, or silverlight for that matter.

I commend TVNZ for providing this content, both for the olympics and TVNZ on demand. It's above and beyond what anyone else in New Zealand is doing and they're making the best out of our slowly growing infrastructure.

FYI, My media center runs OS X and I've been watching the streams fine. Yes, the plugin costs money. But the trial works perfectly and won't expire for a couple of weeks - plenty of time to enjoy the olympics.

Author's note by foobar, on 21-Aug-2008 11:30

@callumb: That's the second time 'hate' is thrown in here! I don't hate technology. Please read this here (especially point 3). Also, I think I am writing about a lot of other things, not just DRM.

But my real concern is free software. Proliferation of DRM means less room for free software. Since DRM mechanisms cannot be implemented by free spoftware such media by default is only accessible through proprietary systems. Proliferation of DRM infested content plays in the hand of proprietary software vendors as a weapon against free software.

Whether a stream of bits (!) can be owned by someone is a matter of debate, so don't be so quick to argue that it is not MY content. Once the bits have been sent to MY computer, over the broadband connection I pay for, and are stored on MY harddrive or the memory of MY computer, this content most definitely is mine. I don't need software to tell me what I can and cannot do with it. The fact is that the business models of the content providers have not adapted to the realities of digital distribution. This is not my fault. I won't be putting up with some sneaky piece of software that suddenly pulls the carpet away from under my feet running on my computer. If you think it's great to give up your freedoms, good for you.

Author's note by foobar, on 21-Aug-2008 11:32

@Chippo: I wonder if Mr. Cotter ever heard of a small site called ''? They use Flash. They stream MUCH more video than TVNZ. So, yeah, I don't buy that argument that Flash can't deal with the amount of content.

And I also don't think that TVNZ is making the best out of the available infrastructure. If they were interested in making the best out of it, they would offer the streams in other formats, or without requiring a proprietary plug in.

Comment by sleemanj, on 21-Aug-2008 14:05

Ok, colour me confused, but I have a TVNZ Olympics stream playing in Epiphany on Ubuntu right now (I wasn't watching it but was sure I had done in the past so gave it another gp and yes it all works just fine).

Amy I missing something?

The link here:

Author's note by foobar, on 21-Aug-2008 14:15

@sleemanj: That's great! Can you enlighten us on how you did that? It sure doesn't work for me...

Comment by knoydart, on 21-Aug-2008 14:44

Maybe its just my lack of knowledge that made it fail (hangs head in shame ). Prob leave it to the professionals next time... I'd like to say I tried with the media player plug ins however sadly didnt succed. Guessing I need to find a different media player to watch the clips.

Comment by sleemanj, on 21-Aug-2008 15:13

@foobar: I don't know how I did it, it just does, perhaps I installed something long ago.

It comes up with the "totem-plugin-viewer 2.22.1 Browser Plugin using GStreamer 0.10.18" which is probably from the "totem-mozilla" package, maybe some of the other totem-* packages

I also have mplayer and vlc installed, perhaps something from there is helping

Comment by sleemanj, on 21-Aug-2008 15:33

I just had a look through synaptic for potential things I have installed that might be helping:

Maybe the codec(s) are found in one of these packages which I also have installed:
I also have the following third party repository setup as an apt source: akirad-hardy main
from which I have cinelerra installed, perhaps it's helping

Comment by manhinli, on 21-Aug-2008 16:29

I don't think they use DRM - WMP even says it's unprotected.

But of course, you can just get the MMS (or ASX) links and put it into whatever media player you like.

foobar's profile

New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
  • Where I have been: Here and there, all over the place.

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