Press release BoxID: 100251 (MASCOM GmbH Germany)
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Viewers demand free choice of digital receivers

Certification mania of cable network and Pay-TV operators puts the brakes on digital development / Receiver must continue to function even where the provider is changed / Common Interface is the only solution for an open digital TV market

(PresseBox) (Unterbergen, ) Digital television is sweeping into an increasing number of households, both in Germany and elsewhere across Europe. However, viewers are icnreasingly dissatisfied with the regimentation imposed by Pay-TV and cable network operators. Owners of high-quality, often very expensive flat-screen television sets, such as those produced by Loewe, Metz, TechniSat and other manufacturers, all of which have integrated digital tuners, are often forced to set up a basic receiver provided by their cable network operator next to the high-tech equipment. Cable network and Pay-TV providers frequently only allow viewers to receive the encrypted programmes using their own, often very primitive, but certified receivers. The argument is that this allows them to ensure access by children and juveniles on certain channels is controlled, as well as that copyright and digital rights management interests are protected. However, in reality both of these barriers can be overcome using the most basic materials – and are frequently overcome, so that this really is just an excuse for the state media institutions and for the rights owners. The copyright and child access protection functions of Premiere receivers, including up-to-date HDTV receivers, can be easily outsmarted using a small software patch.

A SINGLE Common Interface demanded for Premiere, KDG, Kabel BW and Unity

If one were to apply the right concept, sales of digital receivers, which are still slow in some sectors, could experience a veritable boom: All that needs to be done is to apply the successful modular concept used in the computer industry, and offer the encryption system as a plug-in module (Common Interface). Viewers could then select their preferred receiver or digital television set from a wide range of models and options. "The problem is that none of the major providers - Premiere, Kabel Deutschland as well as Unity Media – so far will allow manufacturers to produce a truly free Common Interface", says Heinz Gruber, general manager of MASCOM, and simply cannot understand the situation. "We would be happy to pay the licence fees, and to market the modules at our own risk and expense – if they would only let us do so." One of the reasons that may be behind this refusal to allow the production of fully functional CI modules ist hat providers find the rental of cheap receivers extremely profitable. Also partly responsible for the lack of CI modules are the major encryption (conditional access) providers, who effectively block the development of CI modules by demanding knowingly totally overstated internal security standards. It seems they prefer to collect licence fees for decoders built into receivers by many different manufacturers, rather than to deal with only a small number of manufacturers of CI modules.

CI modules are absolutely safe

The child access and protection standards demanded by the authorities can be just as effectively fulfilled by a CI module as by an encryption system that is built into the receiver. In fact, we could make child and juvenile access even more selective", says Gruber. The new spectre of copy protection, or DRM – Digital Rights Management, should be forcefully rejected by viewers. "It is simply not acceptable, that viewers are no longer in control of their video recording, bei t on tape of on the hard drive of their digital receiver, with TV providers trying to tell them for how long they may view such recordings", says Heinz Gruber. In neighbouring countries such as Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France or Spain, digital TV reception works very well using Common Interface, and without digital rights management – so why should it not also work in Germany!

Technical barriers encourage illegal products

The more the platform operators restrict the viewer by implementing technical barriers and hurdles, the faster will the market for illegal patched products downloaded from the Internet grow. The demand for the Premiere CI module available on the market is practically zero, as it will function only in very few licensed Premiere receivers. This official Premiere module will not work in conjunction with a single IDTV set with a CI slot, as is required and prescribed by the EU. Not surprisingly, viewers reject the product. Already, viewers are increasingly purchasing illegal modules, which will work in conjunction with Premiere HDTV or with the new KDG Smartcard 09 – frequently even without a subscriber card! There are more than 100 receivers with a so-called illegal cardless function (view TV for free, without a card) and more than 50 illegal CI modules on the market! Of course, there is no customer support for this type of product, the customer is left on his own after he has purchased the module, and is often not even aware that the item is illegal. However, the problems will come out when the hotline of the platform provider is confronted with a barrage of questions from viewers complaining about a wide variety of hardware configurations, many of which will not work satisfactorily.

Viewers have to pile on the pressure

This is a problem that is growing day by day, and it is up to the Pay-TV and cable network operators to solve it by permitting official, functioning Common Interface modules to be authorised for all CI receivers and IDTV (TV sets with an integrated digital receiver section). Every single legally acquired subscriber card should work in every single CI receiver. "There is no point in agreeing on a 'Common Interface Norm V2.0' with integrated Digital Rights Management and then to wait for several years until it can be implemented in practice. We need a sensible solution for viewers NOW", says Heinz Gruber. To simply watch television – that is what the viewer and Pay-TV subscriber wants. And it cannot be right that one forces customers to seek illegal solutions in order to fulfil this need.

Viewers should no longer put up with the limitations that have been placed o ntheir choice of receivers in the past, and should demand an opening of the market from the responsbile providers as well as authorities in their countries, such as (in Germany):

- Pay-TV and cable network operators (Premiere, Kabel Deutschland, Unity Media, Kabel Baden Württemberg)
- Consumer protection bodies (
- State media authorities (
- Federal anti-trust office, 7. department for decisions (
- ZVEI - Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Elektronikindustrie e.V. – German central association of the electronic and electro-technical industry (
- German TV platform (

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