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Virgin Media file formal complaint about Project Canvas with Ofcom
Tuesday 03 August 2010 16:29:43 by John Hunt

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.


Posted by tedsloan over 6 years ago
Can someone please give me a sensible definition of what is meant by " anti-competitive ". I have heard it so often but simply can not suss out it's meaning. For a Company like Virgin Media who have gone from being CableTel to ntl and now VM they should keep their head down especially as they have gone to ground when it comes to installing new cables.Sounds to me as if they FEAR competition rather than embrace it !
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
It just means they are sulking at new any competition. I wonder how it will eliminate existing consumer choice? Surely the consumer will have the existing choices they have now + a new choice? I make that an increase in choice?

If they want to complain on the grounds of use of public money go for it, but not because it might take away some of their customers as that's just sour grapes.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
one angle would be that two or more companies colluding together to carve up the market is contrary to Article 81 of the Treaty of Rome.....
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
"Agreements, decisions and concerted practices between undertakings which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition are prohibited by art. 81 (1) of the Treaty of Rome if and in so far as they may affect trade between EC member states unless exempted by art. 81 (3). Examples of such agreements, decisions or concerted practices are those that:

limit or control production, markets, technical development, or investment

share markets or sources of supply

Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
Complaints about anti-competitive behaviour from a company that offers no wholesale access to its' network are quite amusing.
Posted by btodd over 6 years ago
Sky are rumoured to also be making a formal complaint soon. Ofcom, BT, Talk Talk and ilk wont be able to just make more than one complaint dissapear. Hopefully this is the end of Canvas.
Sky and Virgin rule for tv and always will.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
Cartels hate competition.


How can competition not be a good thing?

Do you like paying more?
Posted by btodd over 6 years ago
Do i like paying more? That sounds very defensive and a bit silly. How do you know any subscription fee on Canvas would be cheaper? Do you work for them?
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Pfft Sky, how can they talk, they've just signed up a load of HBO stuff that cannot be aired anywhere else but on Sky now:-
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Hmmm I wonder who btodd is? :)
Posted by btodd over 6 years ago
Thank you for that information as an American i may get sky tv now. It will be nice to talk with family back home about shows they also see. How nice sky took the time and money to bring more programming to the uk. I do not know what you mean by your second comment. My name is Brian Todd, born in the USA, british show size 11 :)
Posted by btodd over 6 years ago
Sorry i meant shoe size :-)
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
If your ok with it I'll just refer to you as you previously banned name CB, your style of aggressive writing and words used is such a give away. Anyway.. welcome back hope you can behave ;)
Posted by mbdrake over 6 years ago

Given that Sky have bought Virgin Media TV, I'm not in the least surprised that VM have voiced an objection - just like their Sky overlords have done in the past.

If Murdoch and his chums had their way, there would be no competition. There would be only Murdochland. The BBC would be shut down or broken up. They would also own ITV (don't forget Sky had a small stake in them at one point).

If Ofcom has any sense, it'd reject the complaint and tell them to go stick their heads in a pig.
Posted by mbdrake over 6 years ago
Oh, and things would get a lot worse if Murdoch does increase his stake in Sky from 40% to 100%. It'd be awful.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
"born in the USA"

That explains everything.
Posted by btodd over 6 years ago
I have no idea what you are talking about GMAN99. I have not been aggressive to anyone. Someone asked if i like to pay more. I answered perfectly logically and resonably.
Posted by btodd over 6 years ago
What does it explain otester?
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
Ironically, won't many people need to have a Virgin Media broadband connection to get something quick enough to stream the content anyway whether it's integrated with the set top box or not..
Posted by Scubaholic over 6 years ago
Well I hope thie complaints are quashed!
I refused to pay Murdoch for the overpriced monoply that is SKY. VM are in the next street[central London] but Hell will freeze over before they cable my block of flats. That leaves BT Vision , hmm. So much for the choice I have.
I have iPlayer by my blu-ray player but the interface is clunky compared to the PC version & stops working when the Sony servers go down.
The picture quality on 4oD is mediocre at best.
So I for one would welcome a different platform that will hopefully bring more choice & better results.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
quote"If your ok with it I'll just refer to you as you previously banned name CB"

Opps better appologise to btodd
Posted by xb0xguru over 6 years ago
@otester - "How can competition not be a good thing?"

Competition isn't always a good thing. Tell me that we're better off with Directory Enquiries being sold off? Nope - we've now dozens of services who hide their charges.
Posted by xb0xguru over 6 years ago
@mbdrake - your argument against Sky is moot. They are funded by their subscribers. If their service wasn't any good, people wouldn't subscribe. End of. Mentioning BBC into the mix just makes your point worse - I WANT to see the BBC disbanded and give the public the option whether they want to pay the £150 a year for the 'right' to watch broadcast TV. Let them put their money where their mouth is and scrap the license fee altogther. Let's see how many people pay them £150 a year when they don't have to.
Posted by xb0xguru over 6 years ago
@Scubaholic - how are Sky overpriced? You're currently paying the BBC £150 a year for 3 channels. Ignore the other BBC channels as they're only provided to try and justify the cost. So £50 a year per ('good') channel. Sky is £550 a year, which would include all Sky Sports and Movies channels, not to mention everything else you get in the mix. There are over 20 good channels (IMHO) that Sky offer even if you only count sports and movies as 1 each. So that's £27.50 per good channel per year, nearly half as much. Not to mention you get a fantastic EPG facilities such as remote record. No contest.
Posted by dafranmo over 6 years ago
When calculating pricing for TV services don't forget the cost of advertising. An analysis of television pricing some years ago - when the BBC licence fee was less than £100 - revealed that the cost of advertising on commercial television (which was then just ITV) added approximately £300 per annum to average household expenditure. I guess that sum hasn't decreased in the intervening time.
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 6 years ago
If anyone is anticompetitive it is Murdoch whether it be through Sky or one of my pet peeves at the moment, ebooks via his Harper Collins super juggernaut, insisting that you can have your ebook as long as it's a Linux/smartphone(apart from Apple iPhone)/Kindle etc. unfriendly DRMed ePub at close to the price of a hardback but marketed six months later only in the USA.

The bastards are driving me illegal despite the fact that I want the authors I favour to get their royalties!
Posted by mrsmr2 over 6 years ago
@xbox - the licence fee also covers radio channels and internet - (plus the additional TV channels)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
^^^ The Tv licence fee does not cover internet, it doesnt even cover iplayer programming. You can watch iplayer without a TV licence totally legally, as long as you do NOT watch the channels live, The same goes for radio through it. Its only the broadcasted stuff that needs a licence. It even says so on iplayers site.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
xb0xguru is correct all the licence fee covers is broadcasted TV. It doesnt cover Internet, NON-Live broadcast TV and Radio, infact theres more radio stations you can listen to live on the internet that their are on DAB and FM nowadays. The licence fee is a joke and those whinging about sky i agree totally with xb0xguru on, people wouldnt pay the licence fee it if it were optional, No matter how much they blubber on about hating Sky and loving the BBC.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
If you dont want Sky dont pay them, if you want additional programming then pay for it. If you want sport then the people that paid a fortune for the rights to air that sport should be compensated. If the BBC, BT, Virgin or anyone else want the rights to broadcast it and they are so wonderful, then they can outbid Sky for the sole rights, as it is they dont though and thats the end of that.
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 6 years ago
Anyone would think that Project Canvas was completely funded out of licence payers money when the Beeb only contributes a very small amount.

As for anticompetitiveness, aren't SkyBoxes and Cable just as anticompetitive in their own way - I can't use Sky decryption on my Freesat box! Anyway, any one company or channel being able to obtain sole rights to broadcast a sport or program is anticompetitive, as is being able to insist on using an unfriendly DRMed proprietary format for media distribution with the prices fixed deliberately high
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
Maybe the answer is to change the way new programming, sports and movies are bidded for.

I dont see how anyone can bash sky, virgin, even BT when it comes to being anit-competitive. They all have their own ways of doing things, systems and tech which isnt shared with each other..... Project Canvas will be the same also. Pick what you want and pay for it, its that simple. Bashing Sky is stupid as they do nothing different than others do with their set-top boxes. They are all locked down systems.
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