The partners in Project Canvas have appointed Kip Meek as non-executive chairman of the joint venture broadband-enabled television platform, expected to launch under the brand name YouView. He will take over from Erik Huggers, the BBC director of future media and technology, who has been chair of the project for the last year. Broadcaster Five could return to the table as a partner in the proposed platform, under the ownership of Richard Desmond, whose main interest in television so far has been in pornographic channels.
Kip Meek has a background in consultancy and was chief policy officer at Ofcom before becoming managing director of Ingenious Consulting, chairman of the Broadband Stakeholder Group and non-executive director of the controversial targeted advertising company Phorm. He will resign from these roles in order to become non-executive chairman of the Project Canvas board. One of his first tasks will be to approve the appointment of a chief executive to run the joint venture operation.
“Project Canvas will integrate the broadcast and on-demand worlds to make this possible via the TV. It will also allow third-party business models to thrive through an open platform, bringing the benefits of next-generation TV to anyone who wants it,” said the newly-appointed chairman.
“Project Canvas is of huge importance to the digital media industry, as it will secure the future of free-to-air broadcasting in the digital age,” added Erik Huggers, who has acted as chair of the proposed joint venture. “This is a major moment for a project started by the BBC and developed in partnership with the wider industry. Project Canvas can now continue its journey towards incorporation as a business standing on its own two feet.”
Project Canvas has been criticised for its lack of open engagement with the wider industry, not least by pay-television providers Sky and Virgin Media.
The BBC Trust approved the participation of the public service broadcaster in the platform on 25 June subject to a number of conditions. One was that completed component documents of the Canvas core technical specification be released within twenty working days, that is to say by Monday 26 July, and that “further developments or refinements to the core technical specification must be published by the BBC on its web site as they are completed and no later than eight months prior to launch of the first set-top boxes”.
The Digital TV Group has meanwhile ruled out the possibility of aligning their Connected TV specifications with the HbbTV standard which has been adopted by some broadcasters in France and Germany. Richard Lindsay-Davies, the director general of the DTG, said the industry association was working very closely with a number of groups, not just Canvas, and had also received requirements from Sky and Virgin Media, as it drafts the latest version of its D-Book specification for the digital terrestrial television platform in the United Kingdom.
Channel Five, which recently withdrew from the Canvas consortium as it reconsidered its strategy, has been bought from RTL Group for a modest £103 million by the media mogul Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Express and Star newspapers and the Television X and Red Hot adult television channels. Their proprietor, the first individual to own a national terrestrial television channel in Britain, has indicated that he would be prepared to pay the £16 million bill to be a partner in the proposed platform.
Everything Everywhere, the holding company for the combined Orange and T-Mobile business in the United Kingdom, is also understood to be interested in joining the venture.
The current partners are the BBC, ITV, Channel Four, BT, Talk Talk and Arqiva. The platform is planning to launch in 2011, and is expected to be known as YouView.