The BBC Trust has given a 12-month approval for the public broadcasters involvement in a new Internet TV joint venture.
Project Canvas is a partnership between the BBC, ITV, BT, Five, Channel 4 and TalkTalk to develop a so-called Internet Protocol Television standard. The service will result in a range of set-top boxes which can access on-demand TV services such as the BBC’s iPlayer and ITV’s ITVplayer.
The BBC’s governing body, following extensive consultations, has now given the corporation the go-ahead with a further review due 12-months after Project Canvas launches to consumers.
"This brings the benefits of next-generation TV to all consumers, including those who choose not to subscribe to pay-TV," said Project Canvas director Richard Halton. "We look forward to rising to that challenge," he added.
BBC trust member Diane Coyle said: "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."
One of the key issues the Trust has had to deal with is the potential impact on commercial television operators and has already faced criticism from commercial operators such as BSkyB and Virgin Media who have challenged the use of public money for a commercial venture that could become a leading standard. The Trust, however, dismissed the fears along with the Office of Fair Trading earlier in the year.
The Trust appears to be mindful of the impact, however, with Coyle conceding: "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 additional conditions include a guarantee that viewers must be able to watch BBC programmes without a subscription, technical specifications must be published within 20 working days to allow broadcasters and manufacturers to adapt to the Canvas standard and that other broadcasters and and content providers have access to the platform. The BBC Trust also demanded that approval be sought afresh if costs vary by more than 20% of the projected budget.
Overall, Project Canvas now looks set to provide a service that will go a long way to tidying up the mess of various on-demand television standards. The move also paves the way for a new class of set-top box hardware, many likely to incorporate Project Canvas Internet broadband functionality with a Freeview tuner.