Canvas could face competition probe

UK regulator Ofcom has said Project Canvas, the broadband TV joint venture between BBC, ITV and BT, could face a competition investigation. Ofcom, in its submission to the BBC Trust, has warned that the venture could find itself the subject of the same regulatory scrutiny that earlier this year spelled the end for Project Kangaroo.

Project Canvas partners have been desperate to avoid association with Kangaroo saying the venture aims to be an open platform for all content owners to bring catch-up and on-demand TV to services such as Freeview and Freesat. Controversially, the BBC Trust has decided Project Canvas will not require a full public value test, which would entail Ofcom conducting a market impact assessment of it on how it would affect commercial rivals. The trust says the venture is only subject to its own review as it is not a new BBC service but a joint venture operating platform.

“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,” said Peter Phillips, partner, strategy and market developments at Ofcom.

The regulator highlighted five areas of potential concern: technical standards; partnership arrangements with other companies; availability of Project Canvas to TV services other than Freeview or Freesat; navigation; and that quality standards for programmes made available via the online venture are “justifiable, non-discriminatory, transparent and proportionate”.

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