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UK Open Source Consortium Lodge Project Canvas Open Broadband TV Complaint

Posted: 16th Sep, 2010 By: MarkJ
uk project canvas youviewThe UK Open Source Consortium (OSC) has joined broadband ISP Virgin Media in lodging a formal complaint with Ofcom against Project Canvas (YouView). Canvas aims to deliver an open standard for delivering subscription-free broadband ISP based internet TV services directly into homes via special £100-£200 set-top-boxes, although the OSC claims it will result in yet another walled garden experience.

The project is part of a Joint Venture (JV) between broadcasters and ISPs, most prominently including the BBC , ITV , BT , TalkTalk , Channel 4, FIVE and Arqiva. It recently won fresh support from 40 consumer device manufacturers (here) but is also the subject of a significant competition complaint by Virgin Media (here).

OSC Statement

The BBC led consortium developing Project Canvas are looking to develop yet another walled garden. As such, the OSC believes this will have adverse consequences for the device and software sector, diminishing consumer choice and causing inevitable consumer harm.

We have asked Ofcom, the industry regulator, to look at the wider effects on the device and software market.

These wider effects will be the result of the BBC and its joint venture partners limiting technology choice, setting arbitrary access conditions and enforcing mandated branding decisions

This "content consumption" device will thus give consumer access to the internet, email etc., supported by its Canvas contents, thus causing it to have an advantage over other, more general purpose devices that would be perfectly capable of providing access to Canvas content, if the consortium were not seeking to impose arbitrary and unnecessary conditions.

Just as with iPlayer, this will mainly impact the organic,"bazaar-like" development of the market for cheap, better, devices based on Free and Open Source Software.

While the technological superiority of Linux is yet again being demonstrated by its choice at the core of this project, the project consortium is using it as internal plumbing and their choice does little if anything for the development of the wider ecosystem.

Admittedly the OSC's complaint doesn't carry as much weight as Virgin Media, although it will bring something potentially more important to the table. On its own Virgin Media would be viewed as merely attempting to protect its market position, but with the likes of the OSC, IP Vision United and Six TV now also joining the fray, greater credibility is being given to these concerns.

Despite the problems, Project Canvas and its Joint Venture (JV) partners are still pressing ahead with plans to become "incorporated this summer". The service itself is expected to become available at some point during the first half of 2011. However we wouldn't be surprised to see Ofcom extracting a few additional concessions before then.
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