The BBC Trust has approved the BBC’s involvement in Project Canvas, subject to a number of conditions.
Project Canvas is a joint venture between the BBC and six other partners – Arqiva, BT, Channel 4, Five, ITV and Talk Talk – to develop and promote a common standard that will allow viewers with a broadband connection to watch on-demand services and other internet content as well as ordinary TV content, all through their television sets.
The Trust’s decision follows a rigorous and extensive period of consultation over the past year, including discussions with a range of industry stakeholders and four formal public consultations. The proposal has been considered in the context of its likely public value; whether it represents value for money; the interests and perspective of the licence fee payer; the market impact; the risk attached to the BBC’s participation in Canvas; and whether Canvas is likely to comply with the law and with BBC policies.
The Trust’s decision includes a number of conditions on the BBC’s involvement. These include:
Industry engagement: Completed elements of the Canvas core technical specification to be published within 20 working days from this final approval, and the Canvas partners to engage with industry on these and future elements of the technical specification. The final core technical specification will be published no later than eight months before launch of the first set-top boxes. The Trust will keep this process of engagement under review.
Free-to-air: Users will always be able to access Canvas free-to-air, though they may be charged for additional pay services that third parties might choose to provide via the Canvas platform, for example video on demand services, as well as the broadband subscription fees.
Accessibility and usability: 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 information and signposting should be provided for users to help them make informed choices about the suitability of content wherever possible.
Access to the platform for content providers and ISPs: Entry controls in terms of technical and content standards will be minimal, access will not be bundled with other products or services, listing on the electronic programme guide will be awarded in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner; and quality standards for ISPs delivering Canvas will be set at a minimum level and applied in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.
Legal compliance: Canvas will comply with all applicable laws including competition and state aid law.
Cost: The BBC’s involvement will not exceed the Executive’s estimated costs by more than 20 per cent over a five year period.
The full list of conditions can be found here.
BBC Trustee and Chair of the Trust’s Strategic Approvals Committee, Diane Coyle, said:
“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. 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 will review the BBC’s involvement in Canvas against the conditions of its approval, twelve months after launch of Canvas to consumers.