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Published on June 28th, 2010 | by Andrew Reynolds

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Painting a Perfect Paradigm

With the World Cup kicking it into touch and the hot weather sending everyone out for charcoal, Doctor Who has become the perfect paradigm of a ‘time shift’ program.

The series has been kicked from pillar to post in the scheduling and has seen its ratings plummet as a response.

Doctor Who - the BBC's iPlayer replacement is Project CanvasHowever, thanks to Sky+, DVR and video online from the BBC’s iPlayer, Doctor Who has seen a consistent boost from such providers after the overnight ratings have cast a shadow over its successes elsewhere.

So with the industry itself changing, its no surprise to see that the BBC Trust has approved the corporations involvement in Project Canvas, an initiative between  ITV, Channel 4 and Five- along with communications companies Arqiva, Talk Talk, BT and a conglomerate of UK ISP’s (independent UK internet service providers) to give viewers access to video on demand through their TV’s.

Any household with a PC or next generation console like the PS3 (though this still has no HD option) or the Wii,  can already access the BBC’s iPlayer through their Television.

The biggest selling point is that it breaks down the barriers between providers. The viewer with a Canvas compliant box set will be able to access content that may have been denied them with another provider from one source- Free of charge.

Project Canvas, which is likely to be called YouView, an uninspiring mash of Youtube and Freeview, was approved by the BBC Trust only if certain conditions are met.

Firstly, the project must engage with industry. This has already draw criticism from industry trading body, Digital Television Group whose members are asking for clarity on the issue of its exact nature (is it a platform? Provider? Service?) and what the project has planned for freeview HD (the BBC themselves have, as reported in Kasterborous said they wish to focus more on HD rather than new technology like 3D TV.)

Canvas must also remain free to air (with broadband or video content via third parties including an additional charge), the technical specifications must be made public within the next twenty days and the electronic programme guide must remain impartial in a “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner”.

BBC Trustee and Chair of the Trust’s Strategic Approvals Committee, Diane Coyle, said: “The Trust has concluded that Project Canvas will deliver significant public value for licence fee payers – people with a broadband connection will be able to access a wide range of on-demand content including BBC iPlayer, free of charge, through their TV sets.”

A target launch date has been set for April next year. However the Project has already been criticised by other content providers such as Virgin Media and Sky.

A spokesman for Virgin Media told The Guardian:

“We are disappointed the BBC Trust has approved Canvas and ignored the significant concerns raised by the commercial sector about the proposal. Our position on this matter remains unchanged. As it stands, Canvas will severely restrict competition and innovation and ultimately this will harm consumers.”

Meanwhile, Sky have called the venture: “an unnecessary use of public funds.”

However any BBC spending on the project that benefits partners in the project has to be shared out equally so as to not break the EU’s state aid rules which declare that Auntie must not exceed Executive expense estimations by 20% for five years.

The Beeb had been expected to spend £24.7m on the new technology over five years, but the introduction of new partners means its likely to be reduced to £16.4m.

So would this change how you view Who? Are you pleased that the last barrier between the viewer and British Internet TV has fallen or are you already sick of finding space for yet another set top box?

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About the Author

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Everyone has a favourite Doctor and mine - just for his honesty, his fairness and his ability to not notice the Master's awful, awful disguises/anagrams (Sir Gilles Estram!?!) - has to be the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. The stories didn’t serve him as well as his acting served those stories.




2 Responses to Painting a Perfect Paradigm

  1. avatar Carn says:

    Yeah no HD on the iPlayer on PS3 but I can’t say I like iPlayer much as it always has issues when I run it on PS3 or my laptop. My connection speed is not too bad but it always does that buffering animation thing every 10 seconds or making everything unwatchable. Not sure why. Anyways I end up watching the show in SD on broadcast night (I don’t have HD channels yet cos I only have regular freeview) and I download a torrent of the HD version someone has uploaded overnight for sunday morning. Hope the BBC don’t mind too much, I’m buying the Blu Ray box set as soon as it comes out later this year (even just to free up space on my PS3 hard drive)


  2. I haven’t seen a single episode this year at the exact time of broadcast. I’ve always paused the Sky+ or watched the recording later so the family could all sit down to watch it together. There’s always something going on, getting dinner ready, waiting for itinerant daughter to return from playing outside with friends etc… Which wouldn’t be a problem if it were broadcast during the winter months as it should be! I had to watch one episode via the Wii with iPlayer after the weather destroyed my incoming satellite signal – it was low quality but watchable without any buffering. A very good backup for emergencies!

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