BBC Trust launches public consultation on proposal for internet protocol television

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

The BBC Trust today launched a public consultation on the BBC Executive’s proposal to develop a joint venture partnership to help enable the delivery of internet protocol television (IPTV). The proposal, also known as Project Canvas, would allow viewers to watch on-demand services, such as the BBC iPlayer and other internet content, via television sets.

This proposal forms part of the partnership plans that have been developed by the BBC Executive, in response to a challenge from the Trust, to help bring the benefits of the BBC’s public investment to the whole public service broadcasting sector.

The BBC Executive has applied to the Trust for permission to form a joint venture partnership, that would set and promote a common standard for delivering on-demand TV and other internet content through a broadband connected device such as a set top box. The BBC would not be involved in the manufacture or distribution of equipment.

The Trust will decide whether or not to approve the proposals, following a rigorous scrutiny process, which will include two periods of public consultation and will report in the summer.

Diane Coyle, BBC Trustee, said:

“The Trust has challenged the BBC Executive to come up with proposals to help bring the benefits of the BBC’s public investment to the whole PSB sector. This is the first of these proposals to come forward to the Trust and we will be scrutinising it to ensure the best possible outcome for licence fee payers. We are now inviting all interested parties and members of the public to tell us what they think of the proposal”

The Proposal

Full details of the proposal are contained in the Trust’s consultation document which has been published today. Outline details are below.


Devices meeting the agreed standards would continue to enable delivery of the full range of digital BBC and other services without a monthly subscription either via the aerial (like Freeview) or a satellite dish (like Freesat).

The ambition is that devices meeting the standard would be ‘HD-ready’ so subscription free HD services (like the BBC HD channel) would be available to those who had an HD television.

It is expected that devices will be available including some form of local storage, such as a personal video recorder (PVR).

Internet and on-demand services

Devices meeting the standards would have an internet connection. In order to access the internet and on-demand services (such as the BBC iPlayer), viewers would need to have a broadband connection from their internet service provider. These devices could enable on-demand services from the BBC and other public service broadcasters, as well as some internet content, which may include video clips or information from public service bodies such as DirectGov and the NHS.

Electronic programme guide

The standard would include an electronic programme guide (EPG) that viewers would use to move between scheduled and on-demand programming.

Costs to consumers and the BBC

The BBC Executive has estimated that initial devices (which would be set-top boxes) would cost consumers in the range of £100-200 at launch in 2010. In order to access on-demand services, users would also have to pay their internet service providers for broadband access.

The BBC Executive estimate that its incremental contribution to the cost of the venture would be around £6m over the next five years. The BBC Executive’s proposal, subject to existing approvals and regulatory constraints, is for the venture to include the current Freesat operation. The total cost including Freesat over this five year period is around £16.6m on Canvas.


If the Trust decided to approve the proposal the BBC Executive would expect equipment, subject to manufacturing lead times, to be available in the shops in 2010.

Next steps

The Trust will today begin its assessment process of the BBC Executive’s proposal. The assessment process for ‘non-services’ is set out in the Charter and Agreement for when the Trust is considering activities, such as the development of new platforms, which do not have the characteristics of a new public service. For example following a non-service assessment process the Trust has previously given approval, with conditions, to the Freesat joint-venture. The assessment process will consider:

  • the public value created by the proposal
  • value for money
  • the interests and perspective of the licence fee payer
  • market impact
  • risk (financial, operational, reputational)
  • compliance with the law and with BBC and Trust policies

The Trust is now inviting consultation responses on the proposal with particular emphasis on the public value and market impact created. The Trust will publish its emerging conclusions in June and will then be open for a further period of consultation before publishing a final decision in July. A full timetable is below.


Date                        Event
----                        ----- 
26 February 2009            Start of first consultation 
17 April 2009               Close of first consultation 
On or before 8 June 2009    Trust publishes emerging conclusions and second consultation period begins 
22 June 2009                Second consultation period closes 
On or before 24 July 2009   Trust publishes final decision

More: Consultation Documents