Broadcast Flag

What Does Broadcast Flag Mean?

A broadcast flag is a digital data stream status bit that flags, and thus prevents, the unauthorized recording of a digital TV transmission. Broadcast flags forbid the capturing of high-definition (HD) digital video in its high-resolution format.


Broadcast flag applications are encrypted into protected media and implemented to prevent illegal digital content sharing via peer-to-peer (P2P) networks that violate copyright laws. Broadcast flags also eliminate the need to save digital programs to hard disks and prevents the modification of high-quality digital images.

Techopedia Explains Broadcast Flag

Any illegal attempt to record copyrighted movies, songs and TV shows are immediately halted when technological protections are implemented via broadcast flag applications. Data streaming status bits suspend these types of recordings and potentially improper distributions.

Broadcast flags employ certain restrictions, as follows:

  • Restricts users from saving a digital program to a hard drive or other non-volatile storage
  • Prevents copying of secondary digital content recordings for sharing or archiving
  • Forcefully reduces digital content quality during recording
  • Restricts users from skipping commercials

In November 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated broadcast flag technology integration for all digital TV sets distributed after July 2005. Multiple restrictions were implemented. Thus, many consider this mandate a consumer rights violation. However, total restriction from downloading and uploading digital TV contents is difficult because of the availability of numerous non-broadcast flag devices.

Even compatible broadcast flag devices have analog connectors. Analog files or programs may be easily converted into the digital format by plugging analog connectors into a computer.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…