Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

BBC Trust gives approval for Canvas

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Following earlier media reports, the BBC Trust – which governs the structural policy aspects of the operation of the BBC – has today given provisional approval for BBC participation in Project Canvas, the Corporation’s own joint venture initiative for internet TV.

The language of the earlier reports remained extremely tentative, not so much about the Trust’s likely approval of the Project itself, but more a reflection of the uncertainties over the project itself. Project Canvas, which is a joint venture involving a number of media players other than the BBC, including ITV, Channel Four, Five, BT and Talk Talk (and which has it’s own unofficial blog – though this looks rather similar to the project’s own newly-established website), is a means of making the BBC’s iPlayer service, as well as other similar offerings from other broadcasters and particular internet services (including Facebook, YouTube and Flickr), available via Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes. It is a successor to earlier BBC initiatives in the same area. Essentially, the project is designed to develop an internet protocol standard for TV sets as a means of exploiting the internet-ready TVs expected to come on to the market in 2010 and to take up 20% of it.

The Project is not without controversy, nor opponents (including Virgin Media and BSkyB), and the BBC Trust has placed several conditions on the Corporation’s participation in it, as well as a period of further consultation. DRM (digital rights management), quality standards and fairness to rivals are all likely to be issues which need tackling, as Ofcom has stated in the past.

Should it be successful, its effect on network provision – with the the iPlayer already under criticism for swamping networks – is likely to be significant, and this has already had its effect on what Project Canvas should look like, particularly whether it should mimic the iPhone apps store, with additional and premium services the subject of separate fees.  Consequently, its impact on current free-to-air television – which is central to the BBC Trust’s deliberation of the concept, given the licence fee funding basis for the BBC, as well as to BSkyB’s own stated objections, is less certain – as its impact on cannibalising the BBC’s own programming schedules. Furthermore, and similar to the arguments around online newspapers: if you only watch the TV programmes you want to watch, rather than the ones that you really ought to watch, what future for news programmes and quality investigative reporting?

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Written by Calvin

22/12/2009 at 1:06 pm

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