The BBC Trust has given its provisional approval to the BBC’s participation in Project Canvas, saying the creation of an open joint venture and engagement with industry can help deliver a common technical standard with features currently unavailable in the market. The process attracted more than 800 written responses and the Trust also spoke to 60 interested parties.
There are now a total of six partners involved in Project Canvas, which is designed to bring internet-based services to the television screen. The other partners are ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT and TalkTalk.
In its conclusions the Trust said that Canvas would add a new dimension to digital terrestrial TV by enabling an increase in the range of content and services available on the platform. Low barriers of access would enable new content providers to enter the market and allow low-cost services to flourish.
Ten main conditions were set out by the Trust including the requirement for the core specification to be published well in advance to allow all manufacturers to adopt the Canvas standard; access to the platform for content providers must be on a fair and non-discriminatory basis; a review should take place after 12 months to assess what effect Canvas will have on the distribution of content over other platforms; Canvas should be kept operationally separate from Freeview; and the cost should not exceed the BBC Executive projections by more than 20% in any one year.
The Market Impact Assessment conducted by the Trust said Canvas could increase the uptake of on demand television services and residential broadband. However, it warned that it might slow the growth of subscribers to pay-TV and could impact on the amount of video that would need to be carried by ISPs.
Welcoming the decision, the partners said they noted the criticisms that had been levelled at Canvas during the consultation process, and said the BBC Trust’s conditions would be addressed as part of its response to the consultation.
“As a partnership consisting of both public service and profit-making businesses, we believe project canvas can be a significant enabling force for the UK’s creative digital economy and we welcome today’s announcement,” said Project Canvas director Richard Halton. “By creating an open environment for internet-connected TV we open the door for a wide range of important online public services to reach TV audiences, and support a competitive open marketplace for commercial digital services.”
A period of consultation now begins that will run until February 2, when the Trust will reach its final decision.