Ofcom warning to BBC trust over on-demand set-top box
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.