Project Canvas will be forced to publish its core specifications within 20 days under conditions set by the BBC Trust. The approval for the BBC’s involvement in the broadcast-broadband project follows a year of intensive consultation and often-bitter public exchanges between the industry and six other partners – Arqiva, BT, Channel 4, Five, ITV and Talk Talk.
“The Trust has concluded that Project Canvas will deliver significant public value for licence fee payers – people with a broadband connection will be able to access a wide range of on-demand content including BBC iPlayer, free of charge, through their TV sets,” said BBC Trustee and chair of the Trust’s Strategic Approvals Committee, Diane Coyle. “We have however applied a number of conditions to the BBC’s involvement in the venture in recognition of the potential impacts on the market if Canvas is successful.”
The Trust has told the Canvas partners to engage with the industry on future elements of the proposal, which will be kept under review. The final core technical specification will be published no later than eight months before launch of the first set-top boxes.
In March Cisco, Humax and Technicolor were named as manufacturer supporters of Project Canvas.
A further nine manufacturers – ADB, Amino, Broadcom, Echostar, Intel, Sagem, ST, LG and TVonics – were named as having expressed an interest in developing components or receivers for the delivery of Canvas-enabled services. It followed criticism from within the Digital TV Group (DTG), which had masterminded the standardisation of connected TV with the specification for DVB-T2 receivers. Members accused Canvas of revealing as little as 20% of its technical details.
However, despite the bumpy road the DTG broadly welcomed the approval that had been anticipated for several weeks. “Following today’s decision the DTG is pleased that the Project can now move forward and is excited to be working with the Canvas partners and our membership to make Connected TV a reality for UK consumers,” said Richard Lindsay Davies, director-general of the DTG. “A vibrant and stable market in which multiple manufacturers can provide robust and reliable products and services based on core interoperability standards is key to the future of digital television in the UK”.
The DTG will publish the UK specification for Connected TV products and services (D-Book 7) in December 2010.
Other key points from the Trust statement are:
- The BBC’s involvement will not exceed the Executive’s estimated costs by more than 20 per cent over a five-year period.
- Access to the platform for content providers and ISPs should be minimal. Access should not be bundled with other products and services and entry in the electronic programme guide should be made in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.
- For the consumer, the BBC Trust has said that users should always be able to access Canvas free-to-air even if they might also be charged by third parties to use other services such as video-on-demand.
- Accessibility and usability features, such as audio description, should be incorporated into the core technical specification and/or user interface as soon as reasonably possible and appropriate signposting for their use given.