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Confrontation Between Ofcom & BBC Over Project Canvas Looms

The BBC and Ofcom are on collision course over Canvas, the open industry standard television over IP project that the Beeb is planning to launch with ITV and BT.

As reported last week, Canvas, which some have called the hardware version of iPlayer, aims to replicate the online player's success without having to access a computer or a web browser.

Virgin media's Virgin TV on Demand functions in a similar way, allowing you to play back on demand content and using Virgin's V+ PVR set top box, recorded video content.

Ofcom has already signalled its concerns over the fact that "Commercially-led propositions which seek to compete with Canvas should not be unfairly prevented from accessing BBC content". The only competitors to Canvas would be Sky and to a lesser extent Virgin Media and Tiscali (or Talktalk, depending if the latter acquires the struggling Italian company).

The BBC has already been defeated once by Ofcom after the latter stopped Project Kangaroo in its tracks, causing ITV, Channel 4 and BBC to lose millions in research and development.

Canvas however is unlikely to suffer the same fate as it will be positioned as an open platform, similar to Freesat or Freeview. Broadband TV News also reports that "tentative discussions have already taken place between NDS, which provides middleware to Sky, and the BBC."

This could mean that Canvas Linux-based boxes could appear sooner than first though after Ofcom irons out what it identifies as potential issues. The Register says that the telecommunications watchdog is mostly concerned about "technical standards, the UI (the equivalent of the EPG), the BBC's partnerships with other broadcasters, and quality standards for programming."

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Our Comments

BBC is uniquely placed in the sense that it doesn't have to bother about actually making money. Canvas should be allowed to go ahead as it is less controversial than Kangaroo ever was. Rivals like Sky would still be able to use the technology if they want to and the Beeb has strongly underlined the open nature of the platform.

Related Links

Ofcom leery of Beeb's uber-set-top box

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/27/ofcom_project_canvas/ (opens in new tab)

Ofcom warning on Canvas openness

http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/?p=17251 (opens in new tab)

Ofcom Signals That Project Canvas May Face More Regulatory Scrutiny

http://www.itvt.com/story/4286/ofcom-signals-project-canvas-may-face-more-regulatory-scrutiny (opens in new tab)

Ofcom may look at Project Canvas

http://www.techwatch.co.uk/2009/04/27/ofcom-may-look-at-project-canvas/ (opens in new tab)

Ofcom to investigate BBC's Project Canvas set-top box

http://www.t3.com/news/ofcom-to-investigate-bbc's-project-canvas?=38738 (opens in new tab)

Ofcom warns BBC over Canvas IPTV

http://www.techradar.com/news/television/ofcom-warns-bbc-over-canvas-iptv-594980 (opens in new tab)

Project Canvas: Watch out for DRM, rivals and quality

http://www.silicon.com/publicsector/0,3800010403,39423616,00.htm (opens in new tab)

Ofcom weary of BBC's proposed set-top box

http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/17804.cfm (opens in new tab)

Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.