BSkyB raises objections to Project Canvas

BBC, ITV and BT catch-up TV service could distort market

LONDON -- BSkyB has hit out at the BBC's decision to press on with its proposed catch-up TV service Project Canvas, warning that the joint venture with ITV and British Telecom could "significantly distort competition" in the all important on-demand market.

Canvas, which promises to bring catch-up TV from the PC to the TV, would see the BBC working with a range of partners including set-top box manufacturers, Internet service providers and other content players, in a bid to deliver a viewer-friendly service.

In a submission to the BBC's own consultation on the process -- being carried out by the BBC's oversight committee, the BBC Trust -- BSkyB said the aims of the BBC-backed service had "a lack of clarity" and said the Trust's decision risked being "unreasonable and invalid" when so little had been finalized.

Sky also argued that by backing a potential new technology platform, the BBC was stepping beyond its remit and accused the Trust of jumping the gun on far reaching decisions.

"The Trust has chosen to conduct its review of the proposals before they are properly defined, a flaw compounded by a short initial consultation and a wholly inadequate two-week second phase."

BSkyB has suggested that media regulator Ofcom should assess Project Canvas' market impact before the BBC was allowed to go ahead with the service.

A statement from the joint partners of Canvas, the BBC, ITV and British Telecom argued, however, that the joint project promised "enormous consumer benefits" and said they should be made free to viewers, likening the proposed open standards platform to the huge success of digital terrestrial platform Freeview, another BBC-backed platform, which has brought free-to-air digital television to more than 12 million U.K. homes.

"Freeview and Freesat transformed digital TV, and showed what standards-based platforms can do for audiences and the industry," the companies said.

"Canvas has the potential to do the same for the next generation of TV, bringing content on-demand from a huge range of providers into the living room, all for a one-off fee," it concluded, pointing out that access would be "open to any third-party, including Sky."