Virgin Media moves to block Canvas with Ofcom complaint

UK cable operator Virgin Media has moved to block the BBC-led Project Canvas joint venture from getting off the ground by lodging a complaint that it is anti-competitive with media regulator Ofcom.

Virgin Media has also called on the Office of Fair Trading (which has already cleared the venture) to intervene on the grounds that Canvas’s partners have broken their promise to create a set of open standards on which to base the connected TV on-demand service.

Virgin Media’s case hinges on its allegation that the Canvas partners – the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva – are proposing to create a closed proprietary platform that will determine the “look and fee” of the service. The operator has cited recent comments by TalkTalk chairman Charles Dunstone that the ISP would not invest further in its own IPTV service but would rely on the Canvas platform as evidence that the partners had no incentive to compete with each other.

The cable operator alleges that Canvas will “stifle future innovation as well as eliminate existing consumer choice for home entertainment” because the “well-resourced companies” involved will have “a considerable incentive to favour [the platform] over other TV services”.

Ofcom will now have two months to take a decision on whether to proceed with a full investigation under the terms of the Competition Act.