“This is the BBC.”
Perhaps no other single phrase has broadcast more meaning to more people in the great call to communicate that has gripped our species and planet in the last two centuries and fed waves of techno-political-industrial revolutions from telegraphs to telephones, radio to TV.
And now, working title “Project Canvas”, the BBC’s proposal for a broadcaster-led, free-to-view IPTV service. This is not Telco TV, that cable-imitating subscription TV.
Project Canvas is the Internet TV every consumer wants (just hook the Net to my TV and let me watch for free) and (nearly) every incumbent dreads.
But the BBC-led Freeview is coming off a back-from-the-dead UK success, putting Free-To-View broadcasting back on the business-model map. If anyone has earned the right to think different about IPTV, it is the BBC.
So little wonder trust is the watchword of the moment.
- “Absence of Trust“, Jame Murdock is shouting.
- “Potential of Trust“, UK trust-busting regulators are whispering after killing the precurser Project Kangaro.
- And “BBC Trust“, the BBC’s watchdog-cum-champion who is running the Project Canvas public consultation.
In the 1981 MacTaggart Lecture, long before the World Wide Web as we know it today, and 28 years before James Murdock reprised his father’s 1989 role on the Edinburgh International Television Festival stage, Peter Jay painted the high-stakes vision of today’s Project Canvas:
“Quite simply we are within less than two decades technologically of a world in which there will be no technically based grounds for government interference in electronic publishing. To put it technically, ‘spectrum scarcity’ is going to disappear. In simple terms this means that there will be as many channels as there are viewers. At that moment all the acrimonious and difficult debate about how many channels there should be, who should control them, have access to them and what should be shown on them can disappear. But it will only disappear if we all work, indeed fight, extremely hard.”
So why shouldn’t Project Canvas also be built on royalty-free standards, advancing rather than opposing the thrust of the Open Internet and World Wide Web that has enabled the Project Canvas opportunity in the first place?
Is the BBC slipping unthinkingly into a common parlance of the day – seduced by the cynical allure of a semi-open “standards-based open environment” — open enough to help me, closed enough to hurt my competitors, with vendor complicity bought by the potential competitive advantage of conveniently under-disclosed patent royalties or other control points?
This is an under-addressed question that the BBC Executive, BBC Trust and proposed joint venture have skirted so far in this consultation, and should be fully addressed before proceeding. A Free-To-View TV Internet is both a TV and a network stewardship.
I. TO DATE THE PROJECT CANVAS CONSULTATION HAS NOT ADEQUATELY CONSIDERED KEY IPR BEST PRACTICES
A. The Core Principle of “Standards-Based Open Environment” is Ill-Defined and Problematic
B. The Needs of and Responsibilities to the Future of the Open Internet Are Not Sufficiently Considered
II. THE LATEST BBC RESPONSE RAISES IPR PROCESS CONCERNS
A. Proposed Framework Compounds Core Problems
B. Preferred Partner DTG Does Not Adequately Address IPR Process
III. PROJECT CANVAS SHOULD ADOPT AN IPR PROCESS BASED ON FACILITATION, EX ANTE, & PREFERENCE FOR ROYALTY FREE
B. Ex Ante
C. Preference for Royalty-Free