YouView one less click away from launch as the BBC Trust approve Project Canvas


The BBC Trust has given the green light, with some parameters, for Project Canvas to proceed.

The project puts together a partnership of UK broadcasters, internet, teleco and entertainment businesses.

The project will create an open, internet-connected, television platform built on common standards by the United Kingdom’s terrestrial broadcasters BBC, Channel 4, ITV plc, Five and communications companies Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk.

While broadcasters and telco businesses have increasingly come to engage in consumer participation, user-generated content and moderation in their activities over the last decade. Project Canvas could be the most public example of commercial enterprise adopting these practices themselves, without creating a cartel.

But the question of introducing a new closed broadcast system in the UK needs to be considered. Open standard networks have been positioned as the consumer friendly face of commercialism in recent years. But where technology has such a high barrier to entry, and where the quality of design and user interface play such a strong part in the consumer purchase decision; a closed system may well prove the most viable and implementable approach to creating an internet-connected, television platform in the UK.

If the closed technology prowess demonstrated by the BBC (iPlayer), Microsoft (software), Apple (hardware and iTunes), Nokia (hardware) and Google (online advertising) are anything to go by; a closed system with clear commercial revenue opportunities, as well as high quality of service, is the right way forward.

The idea of a closed system does however raise concerns in some quarters. The UK’s Intellect Technology Association, in a submission to the BBC Trust, said that Project Canvas risks isolating the UK as a “technological island” in a global market by trying to create a standard IPTV set-top box for just the UK.

From my point of view, TV platforms have always been islands. Sometimes they’ve been divided geographically (UK terrestrial), sometimes technologically (Sky). So where is the new news in this? What has of course happened is a significant shift in the power of production companies in recent years (when they have a hit series that is syndicated), while TV channels have been weakened (if they were only funded by advertising and cut back on programme making themselves – sometimes due to UK remit constraints).

So the thought of this mix of public service broadcasters, commercial networks and subscription service companies is a heady mix. It’s something that could put in place a new platform for TV, home comms and entertainment services in the UK.

It’s still a closed system future for UK TV. But possibly a more profitable, sustainable and high quality one; designed to benefit the consumer. Let’s hope so anyway.

Now I just need to figure out where I am going to be able to fit yet another entertainment box around my TV, so I can receive YouView.

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