BSkyB is giving one hand while taking with the other, or at least trying to take with the other. While Sky News is now available for anyone to watch for free online, BSkyB is busy putting the boot into the BBC over its plans for Project Canvas.
Kangaroo To Canvas
First came Project Kangaroo, a joint online video on demand venture from the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4. Things were going well until BSkyB and Virgin Media, the providers of satellite and cable television in the U.K. complained about the proposals. This lead to the Competition Commission killing the project.
So the BBC regrouped and began work on Project Canvas alongside partners ITV and Five. Canvas is an effort to develop a new open standard for online video which could be used by all who wanted to do so. New set-top boxes would be released to enable people to watch a range of television programs over the Internet.
But BSkyB, run by the irrepressible Rupert Murdoch, isn’t happy. Again.
Sky Complains Again
BSkyB has now made two formal submissions to the BBC Trust, which governs the inner workings of the BBC, requesting additional information about the Canvas plans and criticizing the way the BBC is going about things.
The broadcaster’s main objection is the fact that the BBC is publicly funded and using that money to create an IPTV platform that may not even necessarily wanted by members of the general public. According to Digital Spy, the report reads:
“In its unique, privileged position in receipt of substantial guaranteed public funding, the BBC is also required to adopt the least intrusive, proportionate means of fulfilling its core purpose, and to minimize any distortions of competition that might arise from the commercial deployment of its public funding.”
Pay TV Fears
Sky’s fears over Project Canvas may be warranted because any new project such as this is bound to impact on the pay TV network’s business. But assuming the BBC Trust rejects the complaints and gives Canvas the go ahead there seems little Sky can do about the future direction of the project.
The BBC is helped by the fact it has partnered with commercial partners, so even though public money is being used to develop Canvas, it isn’t the be all and end all.
Sky News Online
Meanwhile, Sky has done the unthinkable and made Sky News free to watch for all online. Previously, Sky subscribers would have to sign into the site to watch the 24 hour news channel, but now anyone (in the U.K.) can view it on the Web.
This is interesting because Rupert Murdoch has made clear in recent months his views on free content on the Web. Not only is he slowly putting selected content of his newspapers behind online pay walls, he’s spoken about his desire to see Hulu become a partly paid for service.
Is this a blip or is he softening in his old age?
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