Project Canvas, a consortium of seven partners including the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, Channel Five, Talk Talk and Arqiva, is aiming to launch an IP-enabled consumer product on Freeview and Freesat next year.
Jaqui Devereux, director of the Community Media Association, said: "We urge the BBC and other players behind Canvas to make it available to smaller community broadcasters. There is a real danger that they aren’t going to, as their current plans don’t include us."
The CMA is part of a growing, but still relatively small, number of organisations that are critical of Project Canvas. Local TV company Six TV and pay-TV and telecoms provider Virgin Media have submitted formal complaints to Ofcom.
Devereux said: "It would be great if the Canvas partners would even talk to us at all. There is an opportunity to for Canvas to open up to local TV players. Despite Jeremy Hunt’s support, we don’t currently have any local TV in this country – Canvas could be our chance to provide it."
Earlier this week, Six TV said in a submission to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading that Project Canvas would be "catastrophic for small-scale services seeking to promote democratic participation and civil society".
It is understood that the CMA supports Six TV’s submission and is unlikely to make an additional formal complaint.
In August, Virgin Media submitted a 74-page formal complaint to Ofcom, asking the regulator to investigate Project Canvas on the grounds that it was anti-competitive and restricted consumer choice.
A spokesman for Project Canvas said: "Canvas is not and will never own or control content and its partners will not be able to give their own programmes prominence at the expense of others.
"As an open environment for content providers, Canvas lowers the barriers for independent and local programme-makers looking to have a direct relationship with their audience, on their own terms, with new possibilities to tailor the viewing experience."
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk
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