Australian free-to-air television network have reached an impasse on ad-skipping personal video recorders as they prepare to release a free electronic programme guide for the first time. Despite releasing the guide, the industry is pressuring PVR makers to limit the advertisement-skipping functions of their products before they are authorised to access it.
The networks have threatened legal action under Australian copyright law, but manufacturers say Australia-specific modifications to the advertisement-skipping features would not be possible as their products are made for global markets.
To date, PVRs – which allow users to record television shows for later viewing and skip the ads – have been hamstrung by the lack of a free EPG for scheduling recordings. Instead, users have to manually enter the time and duration of the show they want to record based on listing information obtained from elsewhere. Alternatively, third-party services like IceTV compile their own EPGs independently of the broadcasters, but IceTV requires a paid subscription.
The industry body representing local free-to-air networks, Free TV Australia, announced all networks would be openly broadcasting seven days worth of programme listing information by January 1, 2008, creating Australia’s first free EPG. It would be receivable “by any digital set-top box, integrated television or personal video recorder (PVR) that has an EPG function”.
Free TV Australia has written to the Australian Digital Suppliers Industry Forum (ADSIF), which represents PVR makers saying “broadcasters are not authorising the use of the programs listing data in PVRs where ‘ad-skip’ functionality goes beyond a maximum fast forward speed of x60”.