back to article Electronics giants raise ruckus over Project Canvas

Project Canvas, the joint venture of the BBC, ITV and British Telecom, must be up to something good considering that some makers of consumer electronics (CE) gear are squealing "foul". The UK's Intellect Technology Association, whose members include Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba and Pace, said in a submission to the BBC …


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  1. Thomas Bottrill

    Project Canvas

    Surely it's just Freeview for internet content?

    If Ofcom had no problem with Freeview then why would they have a problem with this?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Bah Corporations.....

    So these big Corp's want to stop this going ahead for fear of losing buisness?

    Get with the times. This is the same as their stupid "Copyright Theft is a Theft" paranoia.

    They need to advance with technology and make it last. They are still in the stone age.

    The problem is their inconpetence...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Colour me thickie, but what is CE? I assume nothing to do with WinCE, but that's the only other time I've heard CE as an abbreviation.

  4. SuperTim

    Not surprised at all....

    CE manufacturers want to be able to licence their technologies. Something free would not help them at all, other than them then HAVING to add it to their own offerings.

    As an interesting aside, the PS3 can play internet videos from its browser, and plays many formats of video natively, including DivX, so it isnt massively problematic for sony to add this tech, just not at all worth their while.

    It aint a problem for me though as i am old fashioned. I tend to download video to a USB stick and whack that in the PS3. (I know..... how old-school am i?)

  5. Rob Beard

    Open Standards

    Surely having these open standards would simplify things for the set top box manufacturers. I mean probably half of them use Linux or something like that to power the boxes anyway and if the BBC, ITV etc want to do all the hard work then why not let them?

    I personally wouldn't touch a Pace box anymore. Not sure if it's down to Pace or Microsoft but my BT Vision box is simply a piece of useless crap which crashes at least twice a week. It will be shortly replaced with a MythTV box and relegated to the bedroom where it won't get much use.


  6. Joe Harrison

    Yes what *is* CE?

    I am currently happy with my 30 quid ethernet NAS supplying content to the USB port of my 20 quid (Lidl) DVD player. No doubt the big players will eventually want me to replace that with some shiny £399 device from Currys. But maybe I haven't really got full CE buzzword compliance?

  7. Rob Farnell

    Going the way of DAB?

    I think an open standard like Project Canvas is a great idea, but I can see manufacturers e.g. Sony tripping the project up every step of the way and other technology that doesn't cost the user getting there first.

    As for the technological Island, have we not learnt from the mistakes of DAB? The UK went on its own and ended up paying for it. DAB+ is now on the horizon after ironing out the majority of the issues and we've yet again been frog leaped by others allowing us to be the Guinea Pigs.

    I also think that the recent agreement with Adobe to embed Flash technology in the hardware of TV's and Set-Top Boxes coming out next year is going to be a tough competitor as it is already an established technology with YouTube and the iPlayer. It also means that it would be an added level of difficulty for people to record/copy the content provided.


  8. Major N


    I _think_ it stands for Consumer Electronics.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    What is Canvas?

    I think that there are a number of real concerns about the Canvas proposals as they stand now.

    1) What actually is proposed?

    The only hard public information is

    a) "open standards based"*

    b) £200-£300

    c) 2010

    2) Is the specification for the service or are there particular requirements about the products that will meet it?

    3) Who will decide about which open standards or other technical issues?

    4) What DRM or protection mechanism will used to protect content - if you think there won't be one you are kidding yourself.

    Throughout the consultation what exactly Canvas is has has been completely opaque or vague.

    *The fact it is open standards based is good but not enough. Windows is open standards based, it use TCP/IP and HTTP and many other components are also standards based but it doesn't make the sum of the product/project an open standard. It is very likely that only approved "Canvas" products would be able to access it - no MythTV boxes even if technically capable.

    I don't think the CE industry is opposed to the idea but the entire manner of the approach has been useless.

    Canvas is the shroud over the dead kangaroo.

  10. Robert Ramsay

    It's called "art", dammit! Not "content"

    *slap slappity slap slap*

  11. Frank

    Tell them to F*** Off

    "..risks isolating the UK as a "technological island" in a global market.."

    They are right of course, There is a risk that if project Canvas goes ahead, the UK will be a place where the CE manufacturers cannot exercise their technology monopoly control over what people can buy and where they can get content from. This is obviously a bad thing - for them. The UK has long been a 'price island' for hardware, software and media, all to the benefit of foreign (and UK) companies which now see an upcoming gouging opportunity slipping away from them.

    As for Ofcom, I thought they were there to protect the interests of the UK population and the UK industry (probably more industry than the sheeple they feed on). In which case, they should tell these CE manufacturers to f*** off.

    An investigation is needed into what 'inducements' these and other CE manufacturers have been giving to Ofcom staff and higher level politicians in order to persuade them to block Canvas and other initiatives. Am I correct in thinking that Sky was a major player in a recent campaign to get project Kangaroo blocked? Where did the inducements come from and who pocketed them?

  12. Roger Heathcote

    @Rob Farnell

    "recent agreement with Adobe to embed Flash technology in the hardware of TV's and Set-Top Boxes coming out next year is going to be a tough competitor"

    Brilliant, now I can get my TV pwned by Chinese teenagers too! Also, since when did it become difficult to copy flash content? I've got a HD full of it (all legit of course). Anyway, somebody's got to do the innovation and I trust Aunty far more than those buttplugs Sony any day of the week. Besides who cares if we're the guinea pigs? Guinea pigs are nice :)

  13. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Deny IT 42 Display and Confirm the Enigma and the Problem for ReSolution/Revolutionary Thoughts.

    "A number of economists have said the UK now has the weakest economy in Western Europe" ..... which is the Direct Result of National and Internetional Intellectual Bankruptcy/a Sad Mad Lack of Viable, and more importantly, Innovative Constructive Imagination which is both Pragmatic for the Practical and Stimulating for the Spoilt and which is Self Sustaining and Propagating for Guarantee of Continuity/Future Supply. ............. which would suggest that IT lacks a Novel Element/Component/Dimension aka Global Leadership with Media Manipulation of Perception XXXXPertEase.

    Economies always surge with Creative Lead Invention which can be Globally Copied/Franchised/Licensed, do they not? Where is the UK Novelty? And to whom would one present such a Product, for what would be in All Practicality and Essence, a License to Print Money.

    A Simple Plain Practical Question of Register Readers and IT Thinkers and which a QuITE Alien ProgramMING would Explore and BetaTest for Suitability for Future Good Common Purpose .... PHLexibility XXXXPerimentation which would have as much to do with Rusventure Operations in the Private Civil Sector as it would with Skunky SwampWorks in the Naval and AIResearch Forces and that you will notice, doesn' t mention any Stealthy MOD Interest which would be a Compounding Verification of the aforementioned Direct Result, or of their Stealth Interest being Best Kept Secret, which is always a Possibility which may be Probably True too?

    Sadly did El Reg not publish the Fed being Militarised in the submission yesterday ..... "Good Science …… Not so Crazy Boffinry from DARPA Fabs." ....... but I can understand why in these MkUltra Sensitive times when saying "Boo" to a Goose is enought to bring the whole House of Dodgy Cards, tumbling down, and Crashing to Earth.

    Methinks whenever something/anything is that Feeble and Unstable, it cannot be fixed and therefore it is by Far the Better and Best and Cheapest Option to Rebuild it on a Foundation of Solid Bed Rock and Heavy MetaDataBase ....... which rather Enigmatically, would be most Probably Beta Phormed also with a Parallel Mirror in Cloud Base for XXXXtraOrdinarily Rendered MetaPhysical Security Considerations.

    And if Future Earth Assaults/Attacks/Skirmishes are deemed to be most Probable from CyberSpace, it seems like Simple Common Sense to put Strategic and Critical Infrastructures into CyberSpace with Secure Core Access Digitally Administered ..... Virtually Granted and/or Assumed/Seized.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The general result exists already...

    All content made available on-line is compatible with most windows based PCs already...

    So buy a netbook, plug it into your TFT tv, navigate to which ever service you want and then watch away to your hearts* content. total cost (even with a usb digital reciever) will be less than £150.

    *Depending on the exact show contentness of the heart may be replaced by contentness of other body parts.

  15. Nigel Whitfield

    It's competition

    "Project Canvas ... want to open up an important piece of Internet technology and give it free to anyone who wants to use it" and where's the shareholder value in that, then?

    That, ultimately, is what so much seems to come down to these days; it's the great barrel over which we're all laid for a sound rogering. Ofcom things competition is the most important thing to protect (because, like, it always works best for consumers; directory enquiries, anyone?).

    So, in their warped little world view, if there was one thing that anyone could use, there'd be no competition. Let everyone have incompatible systems, so you can only see some content on Panasonic sets, and other things on Sony, and that'll be much better because the market will decide, and lots of people will chuckle in glee when they get their dividend cheques.

    Imagine if just about every TV on sale could access all the content from the UK's major broadcasters, regardless of which brand it was? And without someone raking in royalties from each set sold! Chaos and anarchy.

    We'll all be so much better off in the little walled gardens of the CE manufacturers, watching the few things they've managed to tie up deals for, because at least they'll be competing against each other.

  16. GrahamT

    Panasonic have a cheek...

    My Vierra TV is based on Linux. So Open Standards are OK when it suits them, but otherwise a bad thing. Mmmm.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think that may be the worst-written comment I've seen here or anywhere else. Completely impenetrable nonsense. Thought it was spam on first few attempts to read.

    I'm sure you have some points to make but I've not a clue what they are. Can I suggest a style guide would help you communicate with other readers?

  18. Buzzby

    canvas tv

    In the next year or so I shall be buying a new flatscreen tv. I may well be avoiding the above manufacturers. Is there anyone else out there?

  19. Chronos

    Embrace, extend...

    They're still adding more and more video, streaming and on-demand services to the 'net? Wonderful. Embrace, extend, extinguish "accidentally."

    1) I have enough bother keeping the advertising houses from snooping, without having the bloody TV to contend with;

    2) The 'net is, by some accounts, already full to bursting with folks pissing about with video without the bloody Beeb et al adding [more of their crap than iPlayer] to it. Full or not, use the fucking broadcast infrastructure you've already got and LEAVE THE INTERNET ALONE! </rant>;

    3) Open standards rarely are when championed by large corporations. We have Dirac on open platforms, but can you use iPlayer? I think not because of all the proprietary glue and DRM that holds it all together. FLV? Don't make me laugh;

    4) Just another stage of their gameplan to require a TV licence where an Internet connection exists. See Ireland for details.

    You'd think people would realise, but just one more way to get East-sodding-enders or some nauseating reality show and they've suddenly got tunnel vision. Heads up, sheeple: The Internet is for free exchange of information and communications, not bloody TV broadcasts. You might not think it, but something of value is being lost. *Some* entities don't like the idea of free exchange, so they conspire to overload the mechanism that allows it, be that with onerous laws or just plain too much data. We're under attack and you brainless shower are still playing cards in the barracks because the "nice people outside" gave you a crate of tinnies. Sod the electronics manufacturers: It's the fallout for us that worries me.

    Flames and swearies, because that's the only language some people understand. Me? I give up. Everyone else has their head up their arse, the Internet (at least those bits of it physically located in this bloody unethical country) is heading for a slow death by consumerism and regulation and the entire ethos of being a netizen is lost in the mists of time.

  20. TeeCee Gold badge

    Let me fix that for you:

    'The advertising association ISBA told the BBC Trust that it supports Project Canvas as long as the button that allows you to fast-forward through the adverts is thoroughly and irreparably b0rked.'

    There. That makes far more sense.

  21. Daniel

    Britain becomes a "technological island"?

    What sort of island would they prefer us to become? An island of flint-knappers and bone tool manufacturers, perhaps? Colour me cynical, but I imagine Sony, Panasonic et all, would want to make sure they had control over the supply of flints and bits of bone!

  22. Rob Farnell

    @Roger Heathcote

    "since when did it become difficult to copy flash content?"

    No you are right it isn't difficult to copy FLV and H264 streamed content. However, if you can protect the stream to only allow a salted hashed check file within the embedded client to receive the content then it is going to be very difficult to extract.

    I have this itching feeling that the Beeb might even require that you enter your TV license code on the TV's and set top boxes if you want to use the catchup/streaming service.

  23. Elmer Phud
    IT Angle

    Proprietary technology

    Proprietary technology says it all. The manufacturers just want to tie people in to thier own product ranges. Bugger all to do with technology.

  24. Alan

    @ Chronos

    Actually, couldn't agree more, I have a perfectly good DVR to record programs for viewing later -- it can even record a whole series automatically if neccessary. Programs that I miss are usually available on some of the other digital freeview channels anyway, I don't see the need for clogging up the net with repeat TV programs.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Yeah but no

    "To repeat, the technology that Project Canvas is developing is an open standard that any box maker or online service can use for free as long as they abide by the rules of the standard to ensure universal compatibility. It's the same with any industry standard."

    Great, where can I download these open standards?

    Oh - I can't because the BBC et al have kept it almost completely secret. Normally I'm a big fan of the BBC, but they are in danger of ballsing this up like they did Kangaroo.

    The article also questions why CE manufacturers don't develop open standards and give them away for free. The reason is that it doesn't make economic sense to invest squillions of R&D dollars developing new technology and then handing it to your competitors for nothing.

    Most successful open standards (for example the venerable SCART socket and the more recent HDMI standard) involve the payment of royalties for using them in products. This helps to recoup the development costs and also funds the standards bodies that police them.

    "Open" is not at all the same thing as "free".

  26. Anonymous Coward

    It's not about the player, it's about the content

    What Sony et al. are concerned about is losing control of the flow of content.

    They want to be the gatekeepers, extracting a toll from content providers (with, of course, ads in the content) in order to be allowed to reach "their" viewers. It's exactly the same failed model that various mobile phone companies have tried -- the whole point of a walled garden is charging people to pass through the gate.

    The BBC wants to deliver content to viewers. Sony and friends want to deliver viewers to advertisers. The logical consequences of this are left as an exercise for the reader.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why Hallo thar, you must be new.

  28. Lionel Baden

    @Rob Beard

    sorry mate my bt Vision Box is absolutley fine

    Only thing that drives me nuts is that it wont work if i set the server to handle the DHCP.

    If somebody knows anything about the ip settings for BT Vision box's i would love to replace my B homehub but cant because vision stops working :(

  29. david bates

    Canvas *sounds* very lovely...

    ...but BT is involved so it must be evil in some way, shape or form...

    Anyone googled "poltergeist tv" lately? :(

  30. Cameron Colley

    @Chrons & Alan

    _You_ may not like the idea of being able to watch the content you want where you want - -but some people do. As for "clogging up the internet" the whole point of the internet is that you can connect to what you want through it -- nobody is forcing you to go the the BBC iPlayer site.

    I agree that the internet is too regulated and that parts of the web are very commercial -- but in the same way that you're not forced to watch East Enders on broadcast TV you're not forced to watch it on the internet either. That's the point.

  31. John Smith Gold badge

    CE-> Consumer Electronics.

    And yes that is the CE in WinCE, for things like TVs, set top boxes, entertainment systems of whatever sort and car navigation systems.

  32. MinionZero

    Manipulative two-faced power seeking control freaks ... for their own gain, as usual.

    Sounds like the Intellect Technology Association, is a lobbying committee for set to box companies etc.., who don't want standard open PCs to push them out of the TV market with a standard format. Looks like these companies smell money to be made, so they want to game the system, to cry foul of the BBC etc..

    These negotiating PR tactics against the BBC etc.. are just to force the BBC to allow the Intellect Technology Association to take control of their IPTV.

    It just shows what manipulative two-faced people are in these companies.

  33. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    How's the actual standard?

    So, how's the actual standard? IMHO, I assume the standards OK and companies are just bitching a bit... but could they be objecting because the "Project Canvas" standards are gross or have practical implementation problems? I could see them objecting if, for instance, they spec'ed using BBC Dirac video format (which the box wouldn't have hardware to decode) instead of MPEG4 (which it would).

    Also, how does this affect international sales? I would be as unexcited to get a TV with BBC access (that I'd be locked out of, not being in the UK) as you would be to get one with Hulu that you're locked out of (being outside the US.) I doubt it, but maybe that's the root of the objections -- they don't want to have to customize this feature for every country.

    @Anonymous Coward that wrote "@amanfromMars"... you must be new here, that post's par for the course, eXXXXtreme amount of X's and all.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Re : Robert Ramsay

    If you are an artist and producing it, it is ART.

    If you an accountant and selling it, it is CONTENT.

  35. oldredlion
    Thumb Up

    Project Canvas

    If the Beeb expect me to fund them by paying for my internet usage they can fuck right off.

  36. Bryan W
    Thumb Up

    Open > Proprietary ... for the people

    That's their gripe. They can't license and profit from a technology if its already freely available to be implemented by anyone, without copyright. Nor can they claim to have the "best implementation" because they "invented it" and thus, no insane markup.

    I'm surprised the cable companies aren't jumping on this wagon as well. They lose more and more customers because they can get their content from the Internet. That's why companies like Time Warner are throttling users in the states, to keep them from streaming all their favorite shows. Why wait until a set time and wade through 15 minutes of commercials when you can get it on demand with fewer interruptions online. Of course, that currently requires the use of a computer machine, so the less tech-savvy will be thrilled with a device that does the same thing with their teles.

  37. Chronos


    Yes, but all our data, whether Corrie repeat or plain old e-mail, goes through these things called routers that are shared resources. They're the rows of stars that show up on your traceroutes instead of timings. Why stars? Because it seems the general public can't get enough of them.

    There's a reason it's called the backbone. It's also breakable.

    Despite my sarcasm, I do understand what you're saying. However, just because you can do something doesn't make it right. The issue here is fair use of resources (not the same fair use excuse that the ISPs use). The 'net has certain services that CANNOT be provided anywhere else. TV, on the other hand, has many solutions to the problems of getting the video to the consumer and missed programmes, the best being over the current RF network which is nearly 400MHz of space with which to deliver the service. In my humble opinion, broadcasting live TV over the Internet is a waste of valuable bandwidth and, while the catch-up services could *possibly* be justified in a world without the technology we have, they certainly aren't necessary when perfectly good DVR systems with EPGs are ubiquitous. They may seem expensive, but what price the Internet, bastion of free speech and open exchange?

  38. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    sony=microsoft ----- canvas = linux

    and... while building the box specs, let's include some sort of store and forward avalanche protocol (like bittorrent, but respectful of licenses, and invisible to user) in each one.

    the hard drive will be there anyhow, and the local ISP will save 99%+ of the incoming backbone bandwidth on popular content by redistributing from inside the neighborhood network.

    there is a world of STB manufacturers that will embrace an open standard at the drop of a purchase order, and once a standard internet appliance exists, savvy consumers will quickly realize they don't even NEED cable.

  39. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    @Robert Ramsay

    "It's called "art", dammit! Not "content"

    You wish. When I look at the dross that fills the schedules, I see very little that I'd call "art". I think "content" is an over-polite description, but very few companies would want to describe themselves as being the "dumping on dummies" business so it will have to do.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Can't it accommodate both?

    The public standard is this: blah-de-blah blah

    The commercial standard is this: blah-blah-de-blah blah

    If you want a public licence you must do so-and-so.

    If you want a commercial licence than you must do this-n-that.

    Result: all parties happy?

  41. Chronos

    Copyright != Patent != Standard

    Copyright is automatic at the time of the creation of code. A patent bestows a monopoly on the inventor for a period of time. A standard defines an API/ABI/protocol/method of doing something, etc that guarantees interoperability (if you're not Microsoft and that standard isn't ODF). They are in no way dependent on each other. What is described here is a standard, which is not to say any Canvas code will not be covered by copyright (it will by default and they'll either get around this with a permissive licence or force you to write your own code compliant with the standard), nor does it preclude a patent or three where such things are considered to be useful.

    It's a minefield and not as simple as some folks try to make it appear. 802.11a/b/g/i/n ad-nauseum are standards. That doesn't remove the copyright on, say, Atheros' or Broadcom's driver and firmware code. Nor did it stop the Aussies getting a patent or suing HP.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    @chronos re what is broadcast for: wise words; broadcast TV should be using aerials not Internets, though my own personal experience of PVRs means I don't want to be completely without iPlayer.

    @disco-deadend-zeke re neighbourhood caching: the whole "cache it at the ISP" idea fails, because it's the *price* of the bandwidth that's the issue. Bandwidth between ISP and content provider [1] is relatively cheap (peering, transit, etc), bandwidth between ISP and end user is massively expensive in comparison, especially if peak/off-peak usage is factored in. So caching at the ISP doesn't noticeably reduce the costs, and it's the costs that matter. At least in the UK, which is where Project Canvas is.

    The same reasoning makes multicats irrelevant too.

    [1] @Ken Hagan: too right mate, content is far too polite a word for the routinely scheduled dross.

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