Project Canvas has confirmed it has submitted a merger analysis to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). At the same time the organisation is to be joined by Arqiva, further broadening its ownership base.
In its submission to the OFT, Canvas has set out why the venture does not constitute a qualifying merger under the Enterprise Act 2002. Canvas is looking to produce and promote a subscription free, broadband enabled, connected TV system based on open technical standards. It is looking to build on the Connected TV standard being developed by the Digital TV Group, though the two organisations have been through a series of disagreements concerning the transparency of the project.
“The Canvas partners are clear that the joint venture does not qualify as a merger, and we welcome the opportunity to clarify this position formally,” said Canvas project director Richard Halton. It is anticipated that the OFT will formally open an investigation in the next few days. The inquiry will provide a further platform to the project’s critics, including BSkyB and Virgin Media, which have been vocal during the BBC Trust’s own consultation process.
Arqiva, which opened the SeeSaw broadband TV portal last month, joins the existing six partners of the BBC, BT, Channel 4, Five, ITV and Talk Talk Group. It will take an equal stake and provide equal funding to the project.
“We are delighted to become a partner in Project Canvas. Arqiva has a long history in supporting free-to-air broadcasting as a shareholder in Freeview and provider of digital terrestrial television networks, so it is a natural step for us to take a partner role in Canvas,” commented Rob Hamlin, strategic development director for Arqiva Terrestrial Broadcast. “The approach of Canvas as an open platform based on common technical standards is one we fully support and are looking to encourage through standards bodies, particularly via the UK’s Digital Television Group,” he added significantly. In addition to SeeSaw, Arqiva also owns and operates the majority of the UK transmission network.
The BBC’s involvement in Project Canvas is still awaiting the go ahead from the BBC Trust.