Reg reader's XXXbox oddity: The BBC4 topless thumbnail trauma whodunnit

'Not us, guv' from all involved – except TiVo, which fixed it while blaming nameless third party

NSFW-ish The mystery began when a Reg reader wrote in to say their Xbox Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) was displaying an image of a suggestively posed semi-nude person alongside BBC4 while the channel was off air.

"For a few days now I've noticed the Xbox built-in TV guide has been showing a picture of a posing naked woman as a thumbnail for 'Pause' on BBC4 and Film4 when the channels are off air," said our reader, Crispin.

Sure enough, Crispin forwarded us screenshots of the offending thumbnail on his console's EPG.

For those not aware, Microsoft's game console can be connected to your telly for receiving live moving pictures distributed by your local friendly television broadcaster.

That's supposed to work just like your regular TV, however – with the thumbnail pics part of the metadata entries attached to the Program Guide received by the device. How did a semi-nude snap appear on Crispin's Xbox? We went to the BBC and asked the question. A politely puzzled Beeboid replied: "I wonder if it is something his end (via Xbox maybe?) rather than ours if it is happening on multiple channels."

This seemed plausible. It would have been pretty damned odd if BBC4, home of documentaries far too highbrow for the sweaty masses glued to BBCs 1 and 2, were beaming smut into the nation's living rooms. Yet the inclusion of Film4 showed that this wasn't a channel-specific problem. Thus we followed the well-worn trail to Microsoft's press office and banged on its virtual door.

Microsoft, after asking to see a copy of the offending images (for bug investigation purposes), was also left scratching its head – though not before seeming to shut off the feed.

"As soon as we became aware of the issue, we blocked the content feed while TiVo worked to address the problem. We understand the matter has been addressed but recommend you speak to TiVo Corp for additional information," said a spokeswoman.

Not our problem, guv: fine, though Xbox is unquestionably a Microsoft product. Nonetheless we went to find TiVo and get that company's explanation of the glitch that allowed this to happen.

This proved harder than it looked because TiVo has recently merged with and rebranded as Xperi, though a helpful staffer in Virgin Media (pedlars of TiVo set-top TV boxes for many years) passed our query on.

What, then, we asked TiVo, of the semi-nude person on our hapless reader's Xbox EPG? Should we start rebranding these things as XXXboxes?

The tellybox maker's Lerin O'Neill told us by way of reply: "The display of the image in question was inadvertent and was caused by a third-party supplier incorrectly linking the image to a programming pause when the broadcaster is off-air. The image was not from the BBC. We take this extremely seriously and the image was immediately removed. We have taken appropriate steps to make sure this is not repeated."

Right, and what steps were those? And what happened when the "third-party actor" found the bug? Why was TiVo's EPG software doing this? Who was this supplier?

O'Neill refused to answer, saying: "Clearly, we take this issue seriously and have invoked process corrections to address the matter."

Crispin, our reader, confirmed that neither BBC4 nor Film4 featured the thumbnail on Xbox. ®

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