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Virgin slams BBC Trust Project Canvas investigation

ISP believes open standards would be better option

The chief executive of Virgin Media has slammed the BBC Trust's review of the Project Canvas project as "shameless whitewash".

Project Canvas is a digital TV service backed by ITV, Channel 4 and Five as well as ISPs BT and TalkTalk, and will allow users to watch catch-up TV services such as BBC iPlayer as well as standard TV services over an internet-connected set-top box.

The BBC claims the project will lower barriers to entry and democratise access to TV.

However, Virgin Media is concerned that the service will force all partners to use the Project Canvas interface and electronic programming guide, and won't fulfil its goals. The ISP has been campaigning for a set of open standards to be implemented instead.

"The BBC Trust has stubbornly ignored all requests to address our concerns by imposing safeguards to prevent the BBC emerging as de facto gatekeeper of the digital world," said Berkett.

"If these standards are contingent on the adoption of a single, branded interface, controlled by the BBC and its partners, then Canvas will significantly distort the market, restrict consumer choice and chill private sector investment."

Berkett added it was a "blatant demonstration that the Trust is incapable of regulating the BBC's activities in an objective way".

The BBC Trust has already given provisional approval to the service. Its full-backing is expected by the end of the month.

A BBC Trust spokesman described its investigation into Project Canvas as "a rigorous process" which allowed "ample opportunity for comment and expression of views".

"The Trust published provisional conclusions at the end of last year. There was then a further period of consultation which closed last month. It is now considering the responses to that consultation before publishing its final conclusions this spring."

See also: Channel 4 and TalkTalk join Project Canvas

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