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Ofcom warning to BBC trust over on-demand set-top box
Friday 24 April 2009 15:15:35 by John Hunt

Ofcom have warned Project Canvas, the on-demand TV over broadband collaboration between the BBC, ITV and BT that they may be subject to a competition investigation. This could lead to problems and the overall scrapping of the project in a similar to vein to Project Kangaroo which was killed off by the Competition Commission.

Project Canvas aims to create a standards based open environment for broadband connected digital television receivers to help content providers and services providers adopt the technology- effectively a set top box for your TV that incorporates either Freeview or Freesat with the addition of on demand content in a similar vein to BBC iPlayer.

"We understand that issues relating to the compliance of Canvas with all relevant competition obligations will be considered within the trust's assessment, including those arising from arrangements specific to the BBC and also those arising as a result of competition, merger and state aid law."

"In that regard we recognise that there may be a future role for the OFT and/or Ofcom to assess the arrangement under relevant merger or competition law. We recognise that the trust has determined that Canvas is a non-service activity and has decided not to adopt a full public value test in assessing the application. However, at this stage, we thought it might be helpful to highlight a few high-level issues that we believe the trust will wish to consider in detail in delivering its assessment of the proposals."

Ofcom letter to the BBC Trust

The five areas of concern are technical standards, partnership arrangements with other companies, availability of Project Canvas to TV services other than Freeview or Freesat, navigation, and that quality standards are justifiable, non-discriminatory, transparent and proportionate.

"The BBC Trust is currently engaged in a formal assessment process for the Canvas proposal.

"This process includes two periods of public consultation, the first of which has now closed. The trust will listen to all stakeholders' views and will publish its emerging conclusions on or before 8 June. There will then be a second period of public consultation with the trust expecting to publish its final conclusions on or before 24 July."

BBC Trust spokesman

It would be a shame to see the demise of what, along with Kangaroo, seems to be a system that is beneficial to end users. Making content easier to access via a unified interface is a benefit to many, and forcing providers to continue to develop their own systems rather than working together to a common goal may end up with higher costs and lower usability to those who eventually use the products. We hope the BBC, ITV and BT take heed, and keep things well clear of the competition regulators.


Posted by TonyHoyle over 8 years ago
What the hell is wrong with this country? The BBC/ITV collaborate to produce an open standard and Ofcom jump up and try to kill it.

Where was all this bleating about competition when Sky produced a proprietary EPG and closed encryption standard that effectively destroyed the open market on satellite hardware in this country? Nowhere. It's got nothing to do with competition and everything to do who has been passing brown envelopes.
Posted by ian9outof10 over 8 years ago
TonyHoyle has hit the nail on the head there.

Posted by mikeblogs over 8 years ago
Ofcom - investigating an open source code for an internet connected STB - what planet?

This is almost as bad as the UK originated amendments in the EU Telecom package due for voting on May 5th.

Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
Ofcom are concerned about broadcasting standards?

Tell them to take a look at ITV1 on satellite. Low resolution and low bandwidth. It's a good job there's sod all worth watching on it anyway.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
ofcom have lost it, they think competition is above everything else.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
This could affect some corporation coming in with a proprietary standard and competing with another corporation for who can give the appropriate kickbacks to the appropriate people, remember that.

It's all about competition, and lucrative consultancy jobs after, forget the consumer.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Agree with all the above, Ofcom as usual totally of their tiny little rockers.
"subject to a competition investigation" Huh what competition there isnt anyone else doing a STB which works with broadband is there?
Oh Unless you count BT who are part of this anyway or the (hopefully soon dead and scummy) Tiscali. If ofcom are that concerned and want fair competition why do they allow freesat to broadcast HD content when freeview doesnt... Or how about the reasons why some channels on freesat you dont get on freeview (and vice versa)... Ofcom, again idiots!
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
you need to check your facts.... :p

Freeview does not have the bandwidth for HD ar **real time** - unless you think peeps will be happy with losing 75% of the channels, just to get a few HD ones????

Freesat has capacity for upto 1000 channels(see SKY for eg), most of which can be HD...
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
See, there is a topic where Dixi, I and Carpet can agree.

*looks outside*

Nope, sky hasn't fallen.

Oh wait, Carpet had to wish es's broadband connection was cut off again. I say do it, if someone wants ot be disconnected they should be.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
and YES! after switchoff in 2012, they say a lot more will be possible, including HD..

- what channels you get are more due to boadcast copywright issues... many programs cannot be broadcast, 'cos permission has to be sought from the owner of *each* piece of music, appearance, etc... usually too expensive!!

That is most likely why SKY gets it, and users pay for it!!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Freeview is more than capable of delivering HD content... The fact many boxes can not decode it is another thing entirely (most are only MPEG2 capable) The reason it doesnt thusfar is analogue still uses more transmitter bandwidth. The reason freeview has less channels than freesat is simply down to the same reason... space. Bandwidth on freeview is currently expensive due to the lack of MUX space. When analogue is switched off it should (NOTE SHOULD) result in less part time channels and hopefully less of those quiz and shopping channels piles of you know what.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
@Dawn, Not sure what you mean with your final comment. A service like this could be very good and reliable, picture and sound on a TV over broadband service certainly should NOT breakup as much as it does on Sky and Virgin just at the first sign of heavy rain.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
Note I did not say it was not capable!!! re-read the post!!
Posted by TGVrecord over 8 years ago
Each platform has its technical draw backs. Sky & Freesat can be affected by rain especially if the dish is a small ie 43cm. A 60cm dish should give better reception. In many areas Freeview is currently broadcast on low power and can be easily affected by electrical interferance ie vacuum cleaners.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
Mmm if TV on the cable network started breaking up whenever it rained we'd be in for extreme pain with broadband services, and Sky likewise is fine so long as the dish is aligned properly, takes incredibly crummy conditions to knock out a decently aligned dish.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
The cable network is usually fed by dish at HQ, so any breakup is due them being all thumbs, or SKY's new 'piracy protection' disagreeing with their transmitter... ( or even not having a backup dish in a secondary location, to prevent loss due to weather/breakdown??)
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
As for freeview HD, did you miss all this???
Ofcom confirms three Freeview HD channels (see comments for STB & codec details...)

Ask here for more details... Its got PM too :)

*fourth* HD channel to be allocated..
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
lots more info here..
"Freeview HD and DVB-T2"

and in the latest mag..
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
"The reason freeview has less channels than freesat is simply down to the same reason... space."
er, understatement of the year.... like comparing a thimble to a pint mug...

Freeview has upto 48 channels, using the freq. 470 to 870 MHz..

Freesat has over 140 channels, using the freq. 10714 to 12480 MHz (12.480 GHz) and more can be added later, by using a second satellite, no fancy codecs or compression needed...
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Mmm if TV on the cable network started breaking up whenever it rained we'd be in for extreme pain with broadband services, and Sky likewise is fine so long as the dish is aligned properly, takes incredibly crummy conditions to knock out a decently aligned dish."

Not from my experience, i once had Sky and the TV service is affected by poor weather (normally on channels that operate at a lesser strength).
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Its still like that today, i only have to walk into somewhere like comet, currys or even a satelite independant specialist when sudden heavy rain fall occurs to see the picture break up, same thing goes for cable TV and that problem has been there since the days of Telewest (infact before even before them).

ANY form of digital TV in a broadcast form can suffer from issues in bad weather, My internet (which isnt rubbish cable) though stays pretty stable in heavy rain, so a service like this COULD be very good.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Yes of course Freesat has more space currently, that doesnt mean freeview will not be able to have space for hundreds of channels. When analogue is switched of transmitters will be able to operate at full power for digital services, within 5 years the 30 quid boxes we have will be as good as useless, its already happened with certain Setpal chipset boxes and the first areas which have had the analogue switched off. HD services you talk of when they become a permenant fixture will also likely need new equipment. CONT...
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
While all the above doesnt sound too good there are positives, more bandwidth means they can charge lower prices to broadcasters that want a channel on the platform and with the ability soon coming to squeeze more into a frequency space that means not only more content but hopefully better content as broadcasters will be able to afford the space.
I personally think freeview even now is pretty good considering its operating at less than half power and you can get it for under 30 quid.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
I certainly will never have Sky again and pay subscription fees for a service that can breakup way too often and then has the nerve to charge you even more for the HD channels. Same basically goes for Virgin and their suitcase size boxes complete with 70s style buttons and remote lol
Posted by caterps over 8 years ago
Ofcom made a complete hash of insisting on open competition for telephone Directory Enquiries (DQ) when

(1)customers said they weren't bothered about it


(2)the industry said it wouldn't work & was a disaster in the making.

Result? Customer confusion, and call levels to DQ now 50% lower than pre-deregulation.

However - with all this interference someone in OFCOM is justifying keeping his job, so why are we surprised...??
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 8 years ago
It is completely understandable that satellites can provide much more bandwidth for channels than terrestrial propagation so it is reasonable that Freeview channels should be a subset of Freesat, but unfortunately for some of us this isn't the case - I can't get Dave! Why? Because I live in a Bracknell TV black spot, a mere thirty odd miles from Crystal Palace and twenty odd from Hannington, Freeview is a no-no since the diffracted signal is worse than a Scottish crofter's broadband and Dave isn't available on Freesat
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@<various>:Bandwidth Freesat v. Freeview.

Actually whilst Freesat [i]could[/i] have more bandwidth available it actually has less.

The reason is politics rather than the laws of physics. Basically rights management means that FTA broadcasts tend to be restricted to Astra 2D (which is generally agreed not to extend beyond UK borders nudge, nudge, wink, wink).
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
..the oodles of bandwidth currently available for satellite broadcasters are on Eurobird which offically covers the entire EU and beyond. Consequently anyone wishing to broadcast additional HD channels has to either strike a deal with Sky to get them to free up space (ho-ho) or else do a deal to get the rights to broadcast to the entire EU.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
The reason being that Sky ended up on Astra 2D for historical reasons even for their encrypted stuff. Presumably they have the contractual right to stay there if they want so money needs to change hands.

Of course someone could launch another satellite but then the business case for that looks poor if you are going with another tightbeam. I think Astra 2D was an accident rather than design.
Posted by TGVrecord over 8 years ago
It seems to me that the ideal solution is to select more than one platform. From Freeview I get channels such as Dave. From Freesat I can get BBC, ITV, Channel 4 HD. I can easily connect my TV to the internet for BBC iplayer. If I wished I could subscribe to Sky, however I prefer to buy TV box sets as I think that works out cheaper than the sub and you don't have to put up with ads.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@TGVrecord:I primarily watch Sky (and thanks to Sky+ hardly ever see an advert except for a couple of frames). If I run out of tuners I fall back to a Humax 9200 and DTT (still avoiding the adverts).

If I see something in HD that I want to record I use the tuner card in my server.

With the new upgrade to iPlayer I'm now even prepared to consider that as a standard source of material.

So yeah, choice is good :)
Posted by Gzero over 8 years ago
The epg on iplayer website is abysmal. It's incredibly hard to find anything worth watching on it bar a few programs. The programs available in HD are even less in number.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
Um, if you think satellite is crowded, you have not seen this!!!
this is roughly the same as UK... (PDF link)

If anyone has good facts on squeezing 100 or more channels into that small space, please quote your sources...

Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
found a better pic for UK!! (still PDF, though...)
and search for "uk-frequency-allocations" (URL too complex/long)
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
caterps yep, DQ is another prime example of ofcom losing it, this obsession with creating artifical competition everywhere needs to stop. Really ofcom's remit should be changed from creating competition to simple regulation to make sure companies stay legal.
Posted by ethicalme over 8 years ago
I have just seen this....not very green either....kit for this kit for that. What will be said when they want to start broadband services....anti competitive? Why do I say this for? There is an ethernet port on the back of my humax box "for future use" It is OK for sky to buy up left right and centre but as soon as the bbc & itv set something up which I see as consumer friendly somehow it is wrong. It makes me want to puke. Sack ofcom, they have never been any good for the poor ordinary consumer. I stop short here of telling them what I think of ofcom...downright rude!
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