Virgin Media have launched a complaint with Ofcom about Project Canvas, the joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva to launch a broadband enabled set-top box in the UK. The device would be used to allow users to watch online content from services such as BBC iPlayer through their television. The Times reported the news that Virgin were expected to file a complaint with Ofcom last month
Virgin claim the Canvas proposal is anti-competitive and will distort the marketplace by eliminating existing consumer choice and stifling innovation. Virgin aren't the only ones to hold concern over the Canvas proposals. Sky have previously spoken out about their disapproval of the use of public money to help fund a system that will disrupt the market that they claim doesn't need Project Canvas. The Digital TV Group (DTG), an industry trade organisation of over 140 members also spoke out about the lack of willingness to involve the industry as a whole in the development of the Canvas platform that is supposed to use open standards to allow anyone to adopt the technology.
"We have not taken the decision to file this complaint lightly. We have worked with both the BBC and their joint venture partners successfully in the past to bring exciting new services to consumers, such as when we were the first to make BBC iPlayer available via the television screen.
However, the Canvas partners have significantly exceeded their original claims to be creating a common set of open standards which could have been improved upon by others and are now intent on controlling every aspect of how people watch TV.
The BBC Trust has already acknowledged, but then completely ignored, the impact that Canvas will have on so many different organisations, from consumer electronics firms to software developers and enterprising new technology manufacturers, to independent programme makers. We strongly urge Ofcom, supported by the OFT, to thoroughly examine Project Canvas and its clear anti-competitive behaviour."Virgin Media Spokesperson
Virgin have found Canvas unwilling to make concessions that would allow it to incorporate the technology into its service. Canvas keeps complete control over the user interface for the Canvas service meaning that Virgin would not be able to adapt it to work with and look like its existing services. They claim that this goes against the open standards principles which they are supposedly running the project under. A Project Canvas spokesperson said they would discuss any complaint with Ofcom.