BBC gives provisional backing to Project Canvas

The BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body, has given a provisional go-ahead for Project Canvas, the IPTV joint venture between ITV, BBC, Five and BT.


It comes a week after Channel4 became the last terrestrial broadcaster to sign up to the project.

Project Canvas is a partnership between the BBC, ITV, BT, Five, Channel 4 and TalkTalk to develop a so-called Internet Protocol Television standard.

It would see a range of set-top boxes available to access on-demand TV services such as iPlayer and ITVplayer.

Set-top boxes, expected to cost around £200, could be available next year. The proposal could still be subject to a competition investigation by Ofcom.

The Trust reached its provisional conclusions following more than 800 written responses. It is proposing some conditions on the BBC’s participation in the venture and will have a further period of consultation, lasting until February.

“After careful consideration, the Trust has provisionally concluded that Canvas is likely to benefit licence fee payers. We believe Canvas could be an important part of the way in which the BBC delivers its services in the future.,” said Diane Coyle, chair of the Trust’s Strategic Approvals Committee.

However, BSkyB does not see the value of the initiative and Graham McWilliam, group director of corporate affairs, says:“The key concern with Canvas is the leading role that the BBC wants to take in the project.  Internet-based TV is already developing fast and, even without Canvas, the industry is working on shared standards to help it grow even further.  There is no need for public money to be spent on replicating what’s set to be delivered through commercial investment.  In the longer term, consumers will not benefit if the BBC’s role in Canvas prevents other innovative services from emerging, as the Trust acknowledges it will.

The BBC Trust should have concluded that the licence fee would be better spent on making programmes and distributing them without discrimination across all platforms. Yet again, this is nothing short of BBC mission creep and anyone with an interest in the long-term health of the commercial media industry should be very concerned.”

Users will also be able to access internet services such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr via their TVs. The BBC Trust has been debating the public value of Project Canvas since March. Virgin Media and BSkyB have been critical of the scheme.

The Competition Commission stopped an earlier scheme, Project Kangaroo.
The success of Project Canvas could be jeopardised by the increasing number of internet-ready TVs available on the market.

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