Following earlier reports, it has been confirmed that the BBC has been granted provisional approval by the BBC Trust to push on with Project Canvas, with the watchdog insisting that the public benefits outweigh the potential for trouble in the television market.
Despite outspoken criticism from the likes of Sky and major manufacturers, the BBC will now be able to push on with its plans to bring IPTV to the masses – providing standards, marketing and branding.
The joint venture – which also includes Five, Channel 4, ITV, TalkTalk and BT and could be joined by other parties in the coming months – will give manufacturers the chance to build the boxes to Project Canvas specifications.
The industry criticism has been noted, and the Trust's provision approval includes several conditions including an annual review, and provide non-discriminatory access to content providers.
- Industry engagement: the core technical specification must be published well in advance of launch to allow all manufacturers to adapt to the Canvas standard. The BBC must report to the Trust within twelve months of final approval or within three months of launch, whichever is the sooner, and at regular intervals on its progress in achieving industry consensus around technical standards.
- Access to the platform for content providers: must be on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, with minimal technical requirements and content standards and access charges calculated on a cost recovery basis.
- Access for ISPs: any quality standards for ISPs should again be set and applied on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis. This is designed to keep barriers to entry for ISPs to a minimum and avoid the proposal being linked to any one provider or service.
- Syndication: a Trust review, 12 months after launch, to assess what, if any, effects Canvas has on the partners' incentives to syndicate their content to other platforms.
"The Trust has reached its provisional conclusions after a rigorous process of assessment, evaluating the evidence gathered and put to it about the proposal," said the BBC's official release.
"There were more than 800 written consultation responses from individuals and industry stakeholders, and the Trust also spoke to more than 60 industry stakeholders and considered a range of other research.
"The Trust is proposing some conditions on the BBC's participation in the venture, to secure public value and lessen any adverse impact Canvas might have on the wider market, where possible.
"There will now be a period of consultation on the provisional conclusions closing on 2 February 2010, after which the Trust will reach its final decision."
Some industry experts are pleased by the news, hoping that the public will be the ones to benefit from having the BBC representing its interest.
"This is a great Christmas present for TV viewers and consumers that puts the UK in the vanguard of next generation TV," said What Satellite editor Alex Lane.
"Project Canvas will open up a new era in home entertainment that goes far beyond just getting iPlayer on your TV.
"Despite their complaints, it will also stimulate the premium pay-TV providers to launch better and more exciting broadband TV services."