BBC Executive Responds to BBC Trust's Request for More Information on Project Canvas

--Stresses Willingness to Work with Relevant Industries and International Standards Bodies

The BBC Trust, the body responsible for public oversight of the BBC, said Friday that the BBC Executive has responded to its request for additional information on Project Canvas, a joint over-the-top venture between the BBC, UK commercial broadcaster ITV, and UK incumbent telco BT, which seeks to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer and the ITV player, as well as other Internet-based VOD services, to broadband-connected set-top boxes--specifically, set-top boxes designed for reception of the UK's free-to-air multichannel TV services, Freeview and Freesat. Last month, the BBC Trust stated that, before it could proceed with the approval process for the project, it would need information on (among other issues): the choice of technical standards for Project Canvas; the way in which the BBC will work with industry bodies; control of the joint venture's EPG; the venture's governance arrangements; and the use of editorial controls.

The BBC Executive's response includes, among other things, a commitment to work more closely with the "different industries likely to be involved in any successful deployment of a broadband-connected TV proposition; the consumer electronics industry, the networks (ISP's and others) and the content, service and application development communities." During the BBC Trust's initial seven-week consultation--in which it says it received over 800 submissions from individuals and stakeholders, and met with over 60 stakeholders--Project Canvas had been widely criticized for a lack of transparency and industry outreach. One of the industry groups that the BBC Executive says Project Canvas will work with more closely is the Digital Television Group, which, in its submission to the BBC Trust, had expressed willingness to expand its membership, revise its organizational structure, and update its D Book as part of any involvement: "We do recognize the particular role that the DTG play in the UK consumer electronics market as a representative industry body, as a profiler of specifications and as the leading player in compliance testing," the BBC Executive states in its response. "We therefore welcome their ambition (expressed in response to the Canvas application) to alter their organizational structure, widen their membership to include the UK ISP's , Internet technology and application development industry, and to develop an evolution of their existing 'D Book' to capture many of the requirements of a Canvas device."

The BBC Executive's response also seeks to assuage industry concerns by proposing that "any technical specification should be separable from the proposed Canvas 'user experience' to enable manufacturers and other platform providers to develop related products with their own brand and user experience." And, in answer to criticism from the Intellect Technology Association--a body whose membership includes manufacturers of digital TV equipment--that Project Canvas, by creating a UK-only standard, would make the UK a "technological island," the BBC Executive stresses that the corporation "has also been in discussion with European broadcasters and platform operators about the objectives of Canvas and is a member of the EBU, DVB and OIPF. We have contributed in the past to work by such groups and continue to offer commentaries as part of ongoing work by BBC R&D," the BBC Executive continues. "For example, the BBC contributes to the EBU’s Web Media Technologies group and chairs its recently created New Media Group. This engagement has resulted in strong interest in the objectives of Canvas among broadcasters and existing platform providers across Europe who are in particular interested in the idea of a broadcaster-led, open approach based on a horizontal market. The BBC is perceived as a pioneer in this kind of approach given its R&D history."

The BBC Trust has now issued a rough timeline for completing its review of Project Canvas: industry stakeholders will have until September 1st to submit additional input; in the fall, it will publish its "provisional conclusions," which will be followed by a four-week period of public consultation; and it will then publish its final conclusion "as soon as possible following the end of the consultation on provisional conclusions." Copies of the various documents in which the BBC Executive responds to the BBC Trust's request for more information on Project Canvas are available at: