Sky criticizes BBC's involvement in Canvas

BBC involvement in Web TV platform may "stifle competition"

LONDON -- BSkyB has attacked the BBC's role in the forthcoming Web TV platform Canvas, saying the pubcaster's involvement in the project amounts to a market distortion.

Canvas, a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT and Five, is set to hit the high street in time for Christmas 2010, allowing viewers access to catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer, free-to-air digital television and Internet access via their existing television set.

But BSkyB says the project gives the free-to-air broadcasters too much control of the web TV sector, and says the BBC's oversight body the BBC Trust must open the Canvas platform up to other commercial partners.

"They shouldn't go off and do their own thing and use the unique funding [of the BBC] to drive a coach and horses through the market development," said BSkyB commercial director Stephen Nuttall, in an interview with the Financial Times.

Nuttall said the BBC's involvement would "potentially stifle competition" because the BBC was using license fee payers money to launch a proprietary platform.

Television catch-up services like the BBC's iPlayer, BSkyB's Sky Player and Channel 4's 4OD have proved hugely popular here, where they have been mainly accessible on computers. Experts predict a significant uptake when such services are available to watch on a conventional television set.

In a statement, the BBC Trust said it would "listen to stakeholder's views" and would publish its provisional conclusions within the next few weeks.