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Channel 4 and Talk Talk join Project Canvas

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Erik Huggers Erik Huggers | 15:00 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

This morning's announcement, that Channel 4 and Talk Talk are joining Project Canvas, is getting a fair bit of attention, which for me underlines the huge public and market interest in what we believe will be a groundbreaking intiative.

Channel 4 and Talk Talk now join the BBC, ITV, BT and Five as partners in the project, and together, we are seeking expressions of interest from other companies who share our vision of bringing broadband and broadcast content together through an open, internet-connected TV platform, and increase consumers' access to on-demand content and services.

Of course the BBC's involvement in the project is subject to BBC Trust approval, and we are expecting an interim decision in the near future. If the proposals are approved, then we can move ahead with the other partners to form a new joint venture to develop technical specifications, market a new consumer brand, build a common user experience, and build the technology platform. The project has its own home too, so visit https://projectcanvas.info to keep up to date with developments.

Erik Huggers is Director, BBC Future Media & Technology.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Will Canvas boxes support (or optionally support) access to local media - i.e. videos on the local network? If not directly, would I be able to host a local 'app' that would allow access to them?

    Is there a technical specification of any sort for Canvas? Will it use web standards like HTML for the UI?

  • Comment number 2.

    This news will sure raise the blood pressure in "Murdoch Towers", keep up the good work BBC!

    I just hope that the BBC Trust will accept that anything which challenges the current Status Quo of on-demand or Box-office type media provision is good for the British television viewer and radio listener...

  • Comment number 3.

    #1 Hi Ed Lyons

    Have a look at the Project Canvas site at https://projectcanvas.info where this comes from:

    "A common technical standard for internet-connected TV devices

    There is no current agreed industry standard for internet-connected TV devices. An agreed standard, freely published, would allow any consumer electronics manufacturer to build devices: creating an open, competitive market.

    Adopting a technical standard is an essential pre-cursor to the canvas project.

    As part of its submission to the BBC Trust, the BBC asked for permission to develop the technical specification for devices in conjunction with the industry. The BBC Trust granted permission for the partners to begin this work with standards body the Digital Television Group (DTG) in July 2009.

    The DTG's work to establish a standard for "connected TV devices" will be published as an industry standard (DBook 7) in early 2010.

    All "Canvas compliant" devices will meet this standard."


    You can also find the submission to the Trust and the documents here https://consultations.external.bbc.co.uk/departments/bbc/trust-assessment-of-canvas-proposals---second-consultation/consultation/consult_view
  • Comment number 4.

    So, we won't be able to see anything about the standard until it's final and set in stone? This doesn't seem very 'open'...

  • Comment number 5.

    Let's hope the user is given the control they need over the QOS mechanisms. The current BT approach is pretty restrictive.

  • Comment number 6.

    Sorry to be awkward, but what does Canvas really do that FetchTV couldn't already do? Apart from provide scope for yet another BigCo media cartel?

    It seems like a typical institutionally reactive response to try and counter and control the "people's anarchy" of the likes of YouTube. And using license payers' money, to boot.

    Remind us, what happened to Kangaroo? I see there is no mention of it on the Canvass site - but for those who need a reminder:-
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2007/11/iplayer_and_kangaroo_1.html

    Will this matter become "ultra vires" ...again..?

  • Comment number 7.

    @themajorityparty:

    Kangaroo was “sold” for an undisclosed sum (though thought to be a considerable loss the partners) to Arqiva, who rebranded it SeeSaw.

    It was, of course, sold without any of the staff or content rights, and the technology itself was already fairly well-understood and doesn’t cost anything close to the millions ploughed into it, so it’s always been slightly unclear what exactly it was that Arqiva paid for…

  • Comment number 8.

    This is exactly the kind of stuff the bbc should be doing. Pushing the technology & bringing all the interested parties together to provide something that's good for the industry AND the consumer.

    The trust MUST approve this initiative. Unlike the faux pas (in my view) around kangaroo (shared by the government).

    Britain should show leadership here (and currently is). Let's not loose that advantage by the trust/government interfering. Please.

    keep up the FANTASTIC work.

  • Comment number 9.

    @planetf1:

    The devil is, as they say, in the detail.

    Conceptually, the notion of an open standard and some degree of promotion and adoption for this stuff is no bad thing at all. What concerns me (and, based on their submission to the BBC Trust consultation, the DTG—of whom the BBC is a member and are the ones concerned with creating the technical specifications) is the business side of it, and whether it’s (a) necessary, (b) as “open” as claimed, and (c) represents value-for-money. So far, the answer to all of these questions seems to be a resounding “no”. Bear in mind that there’s nothing preventing the DTG from drafting the standards, and very little preventing the BBC from adopting them *without* the joint venture in place—and if the BBC were to adopt them at the broadcast end, how long do you think it would take before CE manufacturers produced devices to support it?

    The problem the Trust has is largely that the current plan, as specified, is quite flawed and rather expensive. Aside from that, it would be utter political suicide given the noises the very-likely-next-Government have been making.

    My feeling is that the Trust is likely to be broadly supportive, but ultimately block the plan as it currently stands, and invite the partners to submit an alternative plan for the troublesome aspects of Canvas for approval in their stead. Meanwhile, the DTG’s work on DBook7 will continue in any case, and manufacturers (most of whom are DTG members too) will be able to begin implementing core support for it fairly soon.

  • Comment number 10.

    You keep saying that canvas is open - could you explain exactly what you mean by that?

  • Comment number 11.

    Before those young fresh-faced optimists sent here to talk up Canvas get altogether too cheery, here come another couple of downers from one who has observed the various out-of-control internal factions at the BBC doing their things over many years.

    The BBC's worthy but misguided efforts to "set standards with "the BBC micro" sent a generation of kids down a cul-de-sac when the rest of the world accepted IBM and Apple. But I suppose it did make a couple of lucky chaps at Acorn v.rich and happy in the process - and Hermann Hauser has been a leading light ever since in UK technology investing.

    And who remembers the BBC Networking Club? Another "Auntie-knows-best" effort to replace open standards with Auntie's bloomers instead. Gosh that was an embarrassing moment, wasn't it?

    The BBC (and my money) has no business in this business. It is absolutely not necessary. The BBC should make good radio and TV programmes, not snuggle up with vast commercial interests in their cart^H^H^^Hinitiatives.

  • Comment number 12.

    11. At 11:28pm on 18 Dec 2009, themajorityparty wrote:

    "The BBC's worthy but misguided efforts to "set standards with "the BBC micro" sent a generation of kids down a cul-de-sac when the rest of the world accepted IBM and Apple."

    What utter tosh! At the time there was no 'standard', heck there still isn't a standard (for computer programming) nor for hardware - although the IBM x86 architecture does seem to have the strongest foot hold, but that is no thanks to IBM, a certain Mr Gates takes that award. I hate to think were the Personal Computer would be had it been left to IBM, probably gone the same way as IBM has whilst the world would now have a love-hate relationship with a certain Steve Jobs rather than a certain Bill Gates...

    "The BBC (and my money) has no business in this business. It is absolutely not necessary."

    Well sorry to burst your bubble but the BBC has every right to be in this business (considering 'this business' is television and it's delivery), unlike some press barons, and unlike a certain press baron, many companies - it would seem - are more than happy to be involved. As for 'not being necessary', oh yes it is, unless one is a shareholder in a certain other 'on-demand' monopolistic media company of course.

  • Comment number 13.

    @ Boilerplated

    "there still isn't a standard (for computer programming) nor for hardware"

    There is one really enduring standard - largely traceable to Unix which included "the open internet" and ethernet concepts at the very earliest possible opportunity, while IBM, Novell et al were busy trying to create monopolizable standards.

    And if you really think the BBC is funded by us mostly for...

    "television and it's delivery" then I suspect Canvas is definitely sending the wrong messages about the role of the BBC. Lord Wreith must be spinning.

    Bring back newsreaders in DJs, I say.

    Merry Christmas!

  • Comment number 14.

    @ themajorityparty

    Does this mean to say you deplore BBC Iplayer and Freeview whilst predicting their quick demise?

  • Comment number 15.

    @Simon Davenport

    Freeview and especially FreeSat, which has rather more predictable coverage and setup - especially for those switching from Sky and who thus already have the right dish - form a very worthy part of the BBC's broadcast distribution remit. I have no problem with that, why should I?

    There's an interesting argument for parking terrestrial delivery altogether, other than maintaining an emergency national network in the event a collision in the geostationary satellite belts that leaves so much debris in orbit that all geostationary satellites are taken out. And there's always the sun factor - no one really knows what sort of effect a major flare storm would have on satellites. If a big flare can blow a continental power grid on the ground...?

    I hope the license payer will benefit from the money about to made from flogging off the BBC's "family silver" in the form of analogue spectrum. Perhaps renting its spare Band 4 spectrum for £1bn a year to cellphone companies who can practise their appalling directly-debited dark marketing arts on their victim customers, might be a nice way to fund the BBC using a form of stealth tax, applied at commercial arm's length?

    iPlayer is a different issue altogether. The BBC denied one UK start-up technology company the opportunity to launch its own IPTV scheme and with it a variant of an iPlayer back in 2001. This would have cost the license payer nothing. A now-defunct commercial arm of the BBC took a close look at the company involved, and its technology, and made a tentative but "modest" offer to buy it, which was not accepted.

    Latterly Zattoo has got an interesting and technically excellent act together with real-time only services, free to viewers and challenging woolly copyright assumptions. It still has problems regarding its users running up vast bandwidth bills, but these could be addressable with a little ingenuity to deliver the service to each exchange directly and multicast thereon to the end user.

    And then there's YouTube...

    I also suspect that Zattoo or Google would be ready to take on the role of archive delivery around a charging scheme. However, I am presently watching BBC1 using Zattoo, with a commercial on top of the programme selector panel. Hmmm...

    The iPlayer is undeniably a neat thing - but please BBC, tell us exactly how much it has cost to develop, and is still costing?

    Perhaps the bigger issue here is the future of copyright and its interpretation - since the monetisation of "content" remains the big sticking point. How do those that create the stuff earn a living? (I am personally not so bothered about the evolution of the roles of the various middle people in the process, and their need/ability to continue to make money from even 25 year old content that the original creators never imagined would be so widely available by now.)

    This appears to be the underlying theme of these industry initiatives at creating cartels around ways to monetise content consumption. Advertising remains a favourite technique, but there has been consternation in commercial TV circles by the (unsurprising to most of us) revelation since the first TiVo that consumers will always choose to skip these intrusions - amounting to the theft of important leisure time. Judging from the recent FutureTV Advert conference, the marketing industry is still short of ideas, and so tries to cling to the increasingly delusional notion that people like watching adverts.

    Well, I confess I enjoyed the Specsavers Postman Pat commercial which I caught by accident one day when skipping through a commercial break - and I even switched my custom from Vision Express in appreciation - but I am much more inclined to avoid the products of companies that run banal commercials, which is 90% of them.

    The other elephant in the room of the PVR is the reality that in the UK (at least) it is perfectly possible to fill a 250G PVR with excellent watchable content for free and never find time to watch it all. Why would anyone feel the need to pay more than their license fee..? The only answers appear to be live sports and X-Factor. Maybe a free to air service could yet make other sports like basketball and baseball into attractions to rival Sky's monopoly on soccer and cricket? If England bombs yet again in the world cup finals, maybe the public's patience will at last snap?

    The way music and film "publishers" emerged in the last century to devise and then hijack roles as the middle men in entertainment that had barely existed before in the days when patrons and performances were the means through with creative artists earning a living, must be reviewed and challenged. Since the internet arrived with adequate bandwidth, despite their protestation about discovering and nurturing artists, the publishers now add precious little to the creative process. Tales of artists getting 9c from the 99c iTunes snaffles, seem to abound - and there is a mood afoot to now force this industry to reinvent itself in the way that the rest of us find our cherished assumptions of a world before pervasive networking took grip.

    We have moved from the horse drawn era of vinyl and CDs into the age of the convenient one-click starter download and play. Yet the content various rights and advertising industries still try to drag this new motor car along using their familiar horse drawn tactics - including lobbying the usual out-of-touch politicians (who are all about to be in dire need of topping up their election funds) into supporting legal sanctions regarding ISPs and downloads.

    Against such a backdrop, it seems that Canvas implies a desire to take a shot at pulling the increasingly open technology and turbo-charged motor car of modern media delivery along, using wind power?

  • Comment number 16.

    Not sure I've fully understood but Canvas, satellite tv, terrestrial tv are not mobile, so maybe other standards like Android with updates might become the dominant way people consume video, as they don't expect to be tied to a particular location.

  • Comment number 17.

    15. At 2:27pm on 20 Dec 2009, themajorityparty wrote:

    "iPlayer is a different issue altogether. The BBC denied one UK start-up technology company the opportunity to launch its own IPTV scheme and with it a variant of an iPlayer back in 2001. This would have cost the license payer nothing."

    What utter tosh, again, or are you really suggesting that this company would have given free access to it's content?! If so, that is probably why the company failed, for having a rather unworkable business plan - or were suggesting that they could just 'leach' content at others expense.

  • Comment number 18.

    16. At 3:57pm on 20 Dec 2009, _marko wrote:

    "Not sure I've fully understood but Canvas, satellite tv, terrestrial tv are not mobile, so maybe other standards like Android with updates might become the dominant way people consume video, as they don't expect to be tied to a particular location."

    Who chooses to watch TV on a tiny screen? Surely it's just a 'distress' access point when a large screen is not available, most people I would suggest would far prefer to wait, either using a 'PVR' or a IP catch-up service instead.

  • Comment number 19.

    To Boilerplated #18

    I agree about TV on a small screen, but there's no reason why the mobile standard can't easily attach to larger screens (wired/wireless). Similar to people having a docked MP3 player rather than lots of fixed entertainment systems. I'm just speculating how important the mobile capability will be, and if this would open up more possibilities and features.


  • Comment number 20.

    @ Boilerplated

    "given free access to it's content?!"

    I'm sorry, but you still don't quite get it. (Deliberately?) The BBC's content is the UK license payers' content. And I'm not aware that Zattoo is being charged - possibly because they are saving bandwidth costs for the license payer by relaying BBC content.

    I don't think Sky is charged by the BBC for the privilege of providing BBC content with Sky Packages? In fact, at the time of this issue when the BBC attempted to charge the IPTV pioneer for delivering BBC News24 (all BBC copyright, no complications), the BBC was still paying Sky "millions of pounds"!!

    The idea that Freesat is delivered from sharply focussed transponders that has prevented all viewers outside the UK watching, is of course, the familiar marginal techno-bamboozle that non-technical "managers" accept when it suits their tactics.

    Overall, I'll draw a veil over the fact that you do not to appear to be too bothered by the facts when you run into someone who actually knows what they are pontificating about. Your proliferation on the Beeb's blogosphere is generally quite entertaining - and I've often thought that Auntie should be persuaded to publish such fervent, opinionated and prolific contributors using green text on a lined background? ;-P

  • Comment number 21.

    #20. At 3:53pm on 21 Dec 2009, themajorityparty wrote:

    "@ Boilerplated

    "given free access to it's content?!"

    I'm sorry, but you still don't quite get it. (Deliberately?) The BBC's content is the UK license payers' content."


    So what is your problemn with the iPlayer then?!

    It seems to me that you either had/have an interest in this company you talk of, that you are not telling us about, or you are just having an ignorant anti BBC rant...

    "I don't think Sky is charged by the BBC for the privilege of providing BBC content with Sky Packages? In fact, at the time of this issue when the BBC attempted to charge the IPTV pioneer for delivering BBC News24 (all BBC copyright, no complications), the BBC was still paying Sky "millions of pounds"!!"

    Totally irrelevant, and if you do not understand why you have no business comment on the issued raised in this blog.

    "The idea that Freesat is delivered from sharply focussed transponders that has prevented all viewers outside the UK watching, is of course, the familiar marginal techno-bamboozle that non-technical "managers" accept when it suits their tactics."

    Take that point up with the satellite owners as they are the ones making this claim, not the BBC (or any other broadcaster for that matter).

    "Overall, I'll draw a veil over the fact that you do not to appear to be too bothered by the facts when you run into someone who actually knows what they are pontificating about."

    The words Pot and Kettle come to mind?

    "Your proliferation on the Beeb's blogosphere is generally quite entertaining - and I've often thought that Auntie should be persuaded to publish such fervent, opinionated and prolific contributors using green text on a lined background? ;-P"

    Says the person with the user name "themajorityparty", 'nough said...

  • Comment number 22.

    The point is we're discussing a system we know very little about and won't know anything about until it's finalized and too late. At least, that's what it appears like to me.

  • Comment number 23.

    @Boilerplated

    "So what is your problemn[sic] with the iPlayer then?!"

    Not much more than the (secret?) amount the BBC has squandered in its development, when commercial alternatives already abound.

    just having an ignorant anti BBC rant

    The ignorance, my friend, is all yours. I have been a long time admirer of the BBC over many years (almost certainly well before you were born, and wireless sets warmed the living room as well as informed and entertained) until it started to get clumsily involved in areas that were plainly beyond its remit.

    It inadvertently helped undermine and possibly even break the formative UK personal computer industry; its "money no object" online splurge has stunted the opportunities for the UK's nascent digital media companies, and now its efforts to create a cartel around IPTV will also end in tears; and worst of all - it may well open the door for a Murdoch tirade that could probably blow the whole thing out of the water anyway.

    So here is yet more dubious judgement by the supine BBC Trust.

    However, I've been trolled enough for one blog - toodle-pip.

  • Comment number 24.

    This would be great if sites like Youtube could be accessed on our TVs - let's hope the BBC will really allow that degree of open access content.

    To date the BBC has acted overwhelmingly like big brother, censoring minority voices, blocking out anything that doesn't 'fit' their privileged Oxbridge world outlook - I for one am truly sick of it. If this really does mean the end of that censorship I'm all for it, we should be able to choose what we value in programme content, not have it chosen for us.

  • Comment number 25.

    #24. At 04:01am on 23 Dec 2009, Meykandal wrote:

    "This would be great if sites like Youtube could be accessed on our TVs"

    The "You've Been Framed" Generation and Jeremy Beadle have a lot to answer for...

    "To date the BBC has acted overwhelmingly like big brother, censoring minority voices, blocking out anything that doesn't 'fit' their privileged Oxbridge world outlook - I for one am truly sick of it. If this really does mean the end of that censorship I'm all for it, we should be able to choose what we value in programme content, not have it chosen for us."?

    Err, how does the BBC stop you from accessing what you want on the internet, how does the BBC stop you from either buying a HTPC [1] or a graphics card with 'TV out' capability, once again the ill-informed use the freedoms given by the BBC (blogs) to have a rant against so called BBC censorship, duh! :-(

    [1] Home Theatre Personal Computer

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_theater_PC

  • Comment number 26.

    Once again the ill-informed use the freedoms given by the BBC

    There may be a great Information Superhighway, but precious few users have passed anything like a driving test, and seem to slam their mental brakes on at the first ambush that Google puts in their way.

    The idea that the BBC is a hotbed of the Oxbridge elite is actually quite entertaining after 12 years of dumbing down and social re-engineering that has seen it squander God Knows How Much on various contrivances aimed at yoof culture, specious relocations to the provinces - and overpaying its legions of right-on managers to go on away days courses where they all sit around in circles going "Ommmm...".

    I hate to agree with Boilerplated, but the great unwashed seem have lost the power of basic thought and reason after 12 years of progressive mind-washing state-sponsored nannyism.

    I expect that you'll need a DNA profile in order to buy a TV licence soon, to ensure that you receive the ethnically and culturally correct balance of content.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    youtube can be seen on TV via certain widgets from LCD TV manufacturers. iPlayer is possible too via Humax PVRs

  • Comment number 29.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

 

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