VOD service is opposed by BSkyB

LONDON — The keenly anticipated U.K. video-on-demand service, Project Canvas, backed by the BBC, ITV and British Telecom, is expected to be greenlit Tuesday with a launch date anticipated in the first half of next year.

The BBC Trust will announce its decision Tuesday following almost a year of scrutiny.

Rivals like satcaster BSkyB fear Canvas will give the BBC an unfair advantage in the provision of video-on-demand.

The paybox has lobbied hard to nix the initiative, originally due to bow this year.

BSkyB regards Canvas as the Internet equivalent of Freeview, the U.K. digital terrestrial TV platform launched by the BBC, which has proved even more popular than BSkyB.

In a submission to the BBC Trust last month BSkyB said: “Given its unique and privileged position in receipt of substantial and guaranteed public funding, the current proposals remain inconsistent with the BBC’s obligations to adopt the least intrusive and most proportionate means of fulfilling its core public service purpose.”

“Sky does not believe that Canvas should be allowed to proceed, or at least, not with the BBC, and the license fee, playing an active role.”

Canvas, whose partners also include Channel 4 and Five, will enable U.K. auds to access web-based TV from their main sets thanks to a new piece of kit being developed by the team behind Canvas.

Mindful of charges that the BBC is making it difficult for commercial firms to operate successful online news and entertainment services, there is speculation that the Trust will attach certain caveats before Canvas is given the final go-ahead.

A previous U.K. video-on-demand venture, Kangaroo, supported by the BBC and ITV, was blocked by regulators because of competition concerns.

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