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Five quits Project Cartel

Canvas too pricey for skint channel

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Bertelsmann-owned Channel Five has withdrawn from Project Canvas, the BBC-led project to define future TV standards, citing cost reasons. The channel is up for sale, losing £37m last year, and could be sold for just £1. Five was obliged to find £16m, its share of the £112m estimated cost of the Canvas project, and declined.

The ambitious project marries TV's dinosaur broadcasters (ITV, the BBC) to retailer Carphone Warehouse, ISP TalkTalk and mast monopoly Arqiva, in a bid to define a hardware and software reference platform for satellite and IP TV boxes.

The Canvas members have kept key portions proprietary, but last month the BBC Trust ordered them to open up the specs and license them under RAND (non-discriminatory) terms. Whether this is enough to dispel the concerns about vertical integration - should broadcasters act as gatekeepers? - remains to be seen.

But as one commenter points out, by putting a UK consortium in charge of such a sweeping set of specs, there will be consequences. If Canvas boxes succeed, it's much less likely that the hi-tech TV big boys such as Sony and Panasonic* will be able to embed the capabilities into their TVs, as they have with FreeView. And since everything electronic becomes integrated eventually, the UK will be a backwater, with punters paying more for the TV tech.

"Very rarely would I write this but Andrew Orlowski may be right on this topic," he adds. It doesn't cheer me up to say it, but we all pay a price for gatekeeping. ®

Bootnote

*Conspicuous by their absence.

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