Japanese viewers upset over DTV taping restrictions

In harbinger of what’s to come in the United States, Japanese TV viewers are expressing outrage over measures implemented by NHK and private TV broadcasters to control the taping of digital television programs.

On April 5, NHK and the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan began airing their programs with a special broadcast flag that allows only a single copy of the program to be made. Because programs that have been copied once cannot be duplicated or edited digitally, editing the programs via a PC has become impossible.

In addition, the broadcasters’ move has made it necessary for viewers to insert a special user identification card, known as a B-CAS card, into their digital TV sets to watch programs.

These duplication controls are being applied to digital TV programs aired by both digital terrestrial and satellite broadcasters.

In the week after the measure was implemented, the Japan Times reported that NHK and private broadcasters have received more than 15,000 inquiries and complaints about the scheme. Many viewers say they have been deprived of their editing freedoms.

With the Olympic Games in Athens coming up, mass retailers of home electronic appliances are stepping up their sales pitches for large-screen digital TVs.

Hot-selling flat-screen TVs are priced at 300,000 yen or higher; the main buyers of these models are older people.

The anti-copying controls have been adopted to protect broadcast copyrights, an NHK official said, adding, “easy violation of copyright would make movie and music copyright holders reluctant to provide their works and prompt actors and singers to refuse to appear on TV.”

The posts and telecommunications ministry plans to terminate analog terrestrial and satellite broadcasting and have companies switch to digital broadcasting completely by 2011.

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