In an article that tells about the plans that the BBC has for broadcast production for the internet, the company also shows it has discovered the purpose of what was Web TV in the U.S. a decade ago.

The BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body, has given a provisional go-ahead for a project which could kick-start demand for internet TV.

Project Canvas is a partnership between the BBC, ITV, BT, Five, Channel 4 and TalkTalk to develop a so-called Internet Protocol Television standard.

It would see a range of set-top boxes available to access on-demand TV services such as iPlayer and ITVplayer.

Set-top boxes, expected to cost around £200, could be available next year.

The Trust reached its provisional conclusions following more than 800 written responses.

It is proposing some conditions on the BBC’s participation in the venture and will have a further period of consultation, lasting until February.

The Trust ruled that Canvas would have a series of positive impacts, including furthering the growth of on-demand TV and increasing the opportunities for internet service providers to develop so called triple play – phone/TV/broadband – services.

“After careful consideration, the Trust has provisionally concluded that Canvas is likely to benefit licence fee payers.

We believe Canvas could be an important part of the way in which the BBC delivers its services in the future,” said Diane Coyle, chair of the Trust’s Strategic Approvals Committee.

But the Trust did find that it may slow the growth of pay TV and contribute to the shrinking of DVD rental market.

Ms Coyle said that there was no reason why companies, such as Sky, should not charge for services on the platform.

“There will be scope for new entrants to make charges for services alongside the free content,” she said.

So with a little of this and a little of that, the BBC is putting together a content stream that will bring many to the party. Now if they can get the delivery mechanism right, all will be well.

Users will also be able to access internet services such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr via their TVs.

The BBC Trust has been debating the public value of Project Canvas since March.

Virgin Media and BSkyB have been outspoken critics of the scheme.

BSkyB said the plan goes beyond the BBC’s public-service remit.

“The key concern with Canvas is the leading role that the BBC wants to take in the project,” Sky’s Director of Corporate Affairs Graham McWilliam said. “This is nothing short of BBC mission creep.”

Virgin said it was “currently considering the provisional conclusion”.

An earlier scheme, Project Kangaroo, was stopped by the Competition Commission.

The success of Project Canvas could be jeopardised by the increasing number of internet-ready TVs available on the market.

Analyst firm Futuresource predicts that 20% of flat-screen TVs shipped in Europe next year will have internet connectivity.

The media providers that are not already broadcasting are the ones that will be hit hardest, such as Virgin Media – they certainly want to sell DVDs. Still they should see the benefit of exposing the audience to things that they will then purchase.

Though nothing is said about it, it would be really nice to be able to see this stuff on this side of the pond. It’s more than the other man’s grass – the content on the BBC is not dumbed down, as many shows in the U.S. are.

This is the sort of thing that might bring certain people back to DirecTV. Offering something new different, and not outrageously priced would be terrific.

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EARTHRISE

Things like this bring the entire world into view, from the living room.

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