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BBC fills in Canvas

Following widespread industry criticism over the absence of specifics when plans for the service were first revealed in February, the BBC has unveiled more detailed proposals relating to its Canvas video-on-demand project.

The BBC wants the Canvas consortium to retain control of the service’s user interface (something that a number of respondents to the earlier consultation document had opposed) but says it will allow partners access to sub-sections of the interface. The BBC argues that the UI is “critical to protecting scale in the horizontal market for device manufacturers and advertisers and integrating broadcast and broadband services” but said that Canvas was intended as an open platform that would be “neither a gatekeeper nor a competitive bottleneck”. Content providers will be able to customise their own shop-fronts. The BBC said the Canvas joint venture “will not own or aggregate content, set price points for devices or offer prominence to its members.” The BBC said it was committed to its existing syndication policy allowing iPlayer to be distributed on platforms other than Canvas.

Canvas content partners will be able to charge for services enabled by DRM on the service (including via micropayments or subscription), while web-based applications could also be available on the TV. The BBC says it is working with the Digital TV Group to develop a standard for the service by March next year that would allow Canvas to launch in time for the Christmas season. The corporation is keen to ensure that the launch of Canvas should be timed to coincide approximately with the launch of HD services on Freeview and the launch of iPlayer on Freesat.

ISPs that support the Canvas specifications will be able to mitigate the load on their networks by using a variety of techniques such as local storage, the BBC said. ISPs that can support Canvas minimum quality requirements will be able to use the Canvas trade-mark.

The BBC is proposing that ownership of the service should be shared between the UK’s public broadcasters (with two thirds) and internet service providers (with one third). Eligible ISPs will have a minimum 5% share of the UK broadband market.