In what is an early Christmas present to lovers of online video in the U.K., the BBC Trust has approved the BBC’s participation in Project Canvas. Along with partners ITV, Five, Channel 4, BT, and TalkTalk, the BBC is now fully on board Project Canvas.
Project Canvas emerged in the aftermath of Project Kangaroo, which the Competition Commission shuttered after complaints from Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB and Virgin Media about the possibility of it creating a monopoly.
The BBC moved on to Project Canvas, a more ambitious undertaking, and one that has also been the subject of criticism from BSkyB and Virgin Media, the largest satellite and cable operators in the U.K.
But no matter, as Project Canvas has now cleared the first hurdle on its path to becoming reality.
BBC Trust Approval
The BBC Trust is the body which governs the BBC and everything it does. This is needed because the BBC is a publicly-funded corporation rather than a private, commercial company.
At the end of November it emerged that Project Canvas could be delayed until 2011 due to the notoriously laborious red tape at the BBC. But that now looks like being a pessimistic timescale as the BBC Trust has approved Canvas after nine months of consultation and review.
The BBC Trust’s approval is merely a preliminary one at this stage. It is now holding a second round of consultation until February, and has set some conditions on the BBC’s participation in the venture.
BBC News reports the following conditions as having been proposed:
• The core technical specification must be published well in advance to allow manufacturers to adapt to the Canvas standard.
• Other content providers must have access to the platform.
• Any quality standards for internet service providers must be applied on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis.
• A Trust review, 12 months after its launch, will assess the effects Canvas has on the partner’s incentives to syndicate their content to other platforms.
• The platform must remain accessible without a subscription.
• The BBC must return for further approval if costs exceed those projected by more than 20% in any one year.
• The BBC must report on whether the proposed accessibility features, such as audio description, have been incorporated. The Trust will review the signposting of content and parental controls.
While this doesn’t mean Project Canvas will definitely see the light of day, it makes it much more likely. And that could mean Canvas set-top boxes on sales by this time next year.
The proposed cost is £200 and for that price it would seem to be a bargain, enabling a whole range of online TV offerings to be watched in the living room.
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