BBC Trust approves conditional YouView support
Joseph O'Halloran
| 23 May 2014
Founder member the BBC is to continue as a member of the YouView project but only subject to a number of conditions, particularly regarding service access through BT and TalkTalk broadband.

The non-subscription catch-up TV and VOD service a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, BT, Talk Talk and Arqiva has been beset by delay and controversy since inception under the Project Canvas name and came to market three years after it was first proposed as an alternative to subscription TV in the UK. It now offers over 70 live digital channels and combines seven-day catch-up on BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5 with a library of on-demand television programmes, films and radio.

The BBC Trust originally endorsed Project Canvas in 2010 and has endorsed the BBC's continuing participation but only subject to a number of conditions, in the findings of a review.

The review assessed whether YouView was complying with the terms of the Trust's approval in 2010 of the BBC's involvement and highlighted four areas of concern: availability of access and usability features, for example for the visually impaired; the use of on-screen 'signposting' about suitability of content, and availability of parental controls; the way that YouView is promoted to audiences by the seven partners involved, in particular by the BBC, and whether the BBC was favouring YouView in any promotional activity; if the BBC's involvement in YouView has had an effect on whether commercial public service broadcasters involved in the venture decide to make their programmes available to YouView's competitors in the market.

The Trust highlighted what could be a huge potential issue affecting its future, demanding that YouView commits to 'promptly' introducing new specifications that will allow content providers to deliver content without being required to use BT or Talk Talk's delivery network, 'subject to the minimum quality standard'. Indeed there has been concern that YouView has taken public money from BBC Licence Fee payers to effectively drive sales and profit for the two ISPs which offer the TV service as a diver for their high-margin broadband sales.

Warned BBC trustee Suzanna Taverne: "The BBC has always been a pioneer in harnessing new technology to continually improve its services for licence fee payers, and its involvement with YouView is very much a part of that. We are pleased that the conditions we set are being met, that YouView is delivering for audiences on important issues like accessibility and parental controls, and that the BBC's involvement is not proving harmful to the wider market. There's more work to be done to ensure that YouView truly serves all audiences and we'll look to the venture to deliver on this in the coming months."

The BBC Executive will report back to the Trust within three months on progress against the review's findings.