The BBC Trust will give provisional approval to proposals for Project Canvas, a plan to promote a new platform to bring internet services to broadband connected television devices and displays. The decision will allow the BBC to proceed with the project, although it does not preclude regulators or competition authorities taking further interest.
It is understood that the BBC Trust which is responsible for regulating the public service corporation has informed its management that it will provisionally approve the plans, subject to some amendments.
Project Canvas is a proposal for the BBC to form a joint venture with ITV and BT, subsequently joined by other public service broadcasters Channel 4 and five, to develop and promote a platform to combine terrestrial broadcasts with services delivered over broadband.
The prospects for the proposed platform received a significant boost once all the main public service broadcasters in the country were involved.
TalkTalk, the communications company that is currently part of the Carphone Warehouse group, also announced its intention to join the consortium. TalkTalk currently operates the Tiscali TV platform, the only true IPTV service in the Britain, which has fewer than 100,000 subscribers.
BT, one of the original partners in the project Canvas initiative, already operates a hybrid broadcast and broadband service, BT Vision, based on the Microsoft Mediaroom platform. It currently has under half a million customers, far short of the planned 2-3 million by 2011, despite giving away boxes to broadband subscribers.
The project Canvas plans have been strongly opposed by pay-television operators Sky and Virgin Media. They were also originally greeted with some scepticism by consumer electronics companies and criticised for lack of detail and transparency.
The industry has since been working with the Digital Television Group to draft a specification for the platform based on open standards.
The aspiration is to have compatible products in market by the end of 2010, although that may be optimistic. In the meantime a number of manufacturers and service providers are already offering various products that allow broadcast channels to be supplemented by programmes delivered on demand over broadband.
The BBC Trust had promised a provisional decision before the end of the year on whether the corporation could enter into a partnership with commercial broadcasters and internet service providers. This will be followed by a further period of industry consultation.