The BBC trust has today given provisional approval for Project Canvas to go ahead following its lengthy consultation period. The aim of Canvas is to develop and promote a common standard that would allow TV viewers with a broadband connection to watch content from the Internet such as BBC iPlayer or other on demand services. Canvas is currently made up of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT and TalkTalk and have recently expressed an interest in inviting further people to join the group.
The BBC decision didn't come without conditions. An obvious concern is the cost of the project, but developing a new technology in this way comes with some uncertainties. Accordingly, the Trust has set a 20% cap on expenditure over the estimated amount per year, above which the BBC executive will have to seek Trust approval to spend more.
The trust also want to ensure industry engagement to guarantee a standards based system is developed that will allow manufacturers to develop Canvas based devices. This can be achieved specifically by:
Canvas publishing the core technical specification well in advance of the planned Canvas launch date in order to provide sufficient opportunities for the widest range of manufacturers to adapt to the Canvas core technical standards should they wish. We would expect that it would be sufficient for manufacturers to receive this information eight months ahead of launch;
Canvas using its best endeavours to develop the Canvas core technical specification with wide industry engagement and to achieve industry consensus for it; and
the Executive returning to the Trust within 12 months of the date of final approval or within 3 months of launch - whichever is the sooner - and at regular intervals thereafter in order to report in detail on the results of Canvas' engagement with industry about the Canvas core technical standards.
The Trust also want to maintain the free-to-air portion of Canvas to be always available, but without the detriment to other business models that may wish to use Canvas. Additionally, some accessibility and usability features have been requested.
Canvas welcomed the decision from the BBC Trust.
"As a partnership comprising of both public service and profit-making businesses, we believe project canvas can be a significant enabling force for the UK’s creative digital economy and we welcome today's announcement.
"By creating an open environment for internet-connected TV we open the door for a wide range of important online public services to reach TV audiences, and support a competitive open marketplace for commercial digital services.
"By creating an open platform based on the free-to-air principles that enabled Freeview and Freesat to take the benefits of digital TV to a wider audience, we now have an opportunity to offer consumers real choice over how they access and enjoy digital content in the future."Richard Halton, (Director) Project Canvas