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Sky criticises BBC Trust over Canvas

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Sky has called into question the BBC Trust's ability to understand and regulate Project Canvas, the new on demand IPTV standard being developed by the BBC, BT and ITV.

In a response to the BBC Trust's consultation on the project, Sky said that BBC management has failed to make its proposals for Canvas "sufficiently clear in fundamental respects", and that the BBC Trust's assessment was being conducted before the proposals "are properly defined".

Describing the initial consultation as "short" and the second two-week phase as "wholly inadequate", Sky warned that the Trust must "demonstrate that it is considering [Canvas] in a suitably rigorous and entirely impartial manner" and that its action to date "calls into question the Trust's independence and the scrutiny to which [Canvas] will be put".

On Canvas itself, Sky cautioned that BBC management "has not adequately demonstrated that there is unsatisfied consumer demand" that would be solved by the creation of Canvas, and added that in its view, "the BBC's primary purpose and obligations could be discharged more efficiently and proportionately through a genuinely broad policy of on demand content syndication across third party platforms and services".

Sky expressed concern that the BBC may use public funds to act as "a market maker" and "significantly distort competition leading to an overall worse outcome for consumers". It cited plans to create standards for electronic programme guides, user interface, and editorial oversight, as evidence that Canvas would itself act as a new platform rather than being a set of technologies upon which a variety of IPTV services would run.

"There are aspects of the proposals that far exceed participation in industry development of technical standards," Sky's submission said, "which give rise to the potential for significant distortion of existing and emerging competition." It therefore called for a far more detailed analysis by the Trust lest it reach "an unreasonable and invalid decision based on a set of inchoate proposals whose impact has not been properly gauged".

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