TV Makers, Retailers Voice Project Canvas Concerns

By Mark Sweney: The Digital TV Group, which represents more than 100 companies including Samsung, Sony (NYSE: SNE), Pace and Dixons, has expressed concern that the BBC-led video-on-demand venture Project Canvas is failing in its core promise to create an open, industry-wide technology standard for the service.

In a submission to the BBC Trust as part of a final consultation on Project Canvas seen by MediaGuardian.co.uk, the DTG said that there is “widespread concern” that the venture’s partners are developing critical technology standards that do not involve key players such as set top-box manufacturers and TV makers.

Project Canvas, whose partners include ITV (LSE: ITV), BT (NYSE: BT), Channel 4 and Channel Five, was given provisional approval to launch by the BBC Trust in December subject to a final public consultation.

A key pledge has been that the technology underpinning the service, which would make video on demand programming available via TV sets to viewers with Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes, would be an open specification.

However DTG, which represents dozens of manufacturers and technology companies as well as broadcasters such as Freeview and BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), says that there appears to be a “parallel process” taking place where Project Canvas and its preferred technology partners are developing a separate standard.

“The DTG’s membership continues to raise concerns regarding the Canvas project, especially regarding the joint venture’s commitment to engage with the industry,” the body said in its submission to the BBC Trust.

“There remains widespread concern in the industry that there is a parallel process in place with a Canvas specification being developed by the joint venture and its innovation partners separately from, and regardless of, the DTG’s Connected TV specification work,” DTG added.

DTG said that the BBC Trust and the corporation’s management “indicated” that the industry developed Connected TV specifications would “be at the core of any future Canvas devices and that the Canvas joint venture would closely engage with the digital television industry via the DTG”.

The BBC Trust’s provisional approval document does not contain a “clear and unequivocal condition” that Project Canvas will have to work with industry, DTG added. The document stipulates just that Project Canvas make a “best endeavour” to engage with industry to achieve consensus on specifications.

“Feedback we have received from our membership indicates that the consensus among our members is that only a mandatory requirement for the Canvas joint venture to engage with industry to deliver an agreed specification can achieve widespread market success and represent the best interests of the UK consumers and TV licence fee payers,” said DTG.

This article originally appeared in © Guardian News & Media Ltd..