BBC Trust provisional approval for Canvas, denies Fetch

The BBC Trust has given its provisional approval to the BBC’s involvement in Project Canvas, saying that the likely public value of the proposal justifies any potential negative market impact.

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.

There will now be a period of consultation on the provisional conclusionsclosing on February 2nd 2010, after which the Trust will reach its final decision.

Sky, which has been highly critical of the project said: “The key concern with Canvas is the leading role that the BBC wants to

take in the project. Internet-based TV is already developing fast and,

even without Canvas, the industry is working on shared standards to help it grow even further. There is no need for public money to be spent on replicating what's set to be delivered through commercial investment.

In the longer term, consumers will not benefit if the BBC's role in Canvas prevents other innovative services from emerging, as the Trust

acknowledges it will.

The BBC Trust should have concluded that the licence fee would be better spent on making programmes and distributing them without discrimination across all platforms. Yet again, this is nothing short of BBC mission creep and anyone with an interest in the long-term health of the commercial media industry should be very concerned.”

Meanwhile IPTV services provider IP Vision had been refused support to build its own implementation of iPlayer on its Fetch TV set-top box and IP Vision complained to the trust that this breached the BBC's fair trading policy and competition law and the BBC's own on-demand syndication policy and guidelines. But the Trust rejected those complaints, concluding: “The executive had provided reasonable arguments as to why implementing a self-build iPlayer for IP Vision could have jeopardised both value for money and the BBC's brand.”

The IP Vision case led the BBC in October to clarify the situations under which it will support such custom iPlayer builds on services other than its own. It said it will only consider technology adjustments for platforms with over 100,000 users and whole custom builds for those with over 500,000 users. At the same time, it banned third parties like IP Vision implementing iPlayer without consent.

The Trust does say that this change to the BBC's syndication policy should have been run through the trust for approval. It's beginning a review in to the policy in January.

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