The BBC hopes Project Canvas set-top boxes will hit the shops next year, making the plan to offer viewers easy access to the internet and on-demand services via their television sets more tangible than ever before.

The corporation's detailed proposals were published today as the BBC Trust launched a public consultation of the joint proposition with ITV and BT, which stand to transform current viewing habits.

The BBC envisages that the set-top boxes would cost between £100 and £200. The standard would include an electronic programme guide that would allow users to flick freely between scheduled and on-demand programming. It would also include a PVR recording device, so that users could store their own content, and would allow audiences to access the full range of digital without using an aerial such as Freeview, or a satellite dish, as well as to store their own content.

In addition, the device would cater for high definition, allowing audiences with an HD-ready television to access free HD channels .

Canvas has been conceived as an upgraded form of Freeview and Freesat and will ensure that iPlayer is available on a free-to-air TV platform as well as pay-TV alternatives. It will target a mainstream audience.

Erik Huggers, BBC director of Future Media & Technology, said: "We are excited about what this could mean for the viewing public.

“By converging the flexibility of the internet with the simplicity and reach of TV we can bring the power of the internet to a far wider audience.”

The Trust consultation will remain open until 17 April, and the Trust is expected to publish its “emerging conclusions” by 8 June. A second public consultation will follow, open to 22 June, and the Trust will deliver its final verdict by 24 July.

BBC Trustee Diane Coyle said: "The Trust has challenged the BBC Executive to come up with proposals to help bring the benefits of the BBC's public investment to the whole PSB sector. This is the first of these proposals to come forward to the Trust and we will be scrutinising it to ensure the best possible outcome for licence fee payers."

The consultation will centre on two areas: proposals for the partners to work together on a common standard, and the formal establishment of a new venture that incorporates Freesat as well as promoting this common standard.

The BBC will invest £6m over the first five years, over and above its current financial commitment to Freesat. ITV and BT are expected to allocate funds from existing commitments rather than make new investments.

The partners also want at least one other partner to come on board, potentially Channel 4, Five or another internet service provider.

The Canvas team is also in talks with manufacturers for the set-top boxes, which will - for a one-off payment and no subscription - enable viewers to watch the Freeview suite of channels and access web services.

These could include broadcasters' on-demand platforms such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and as well as videos distributed on YouTube, content made for arts bodies such as the Royal Opera House and government-backed sites.

As with existing set-top boxes, viewers would set up their own favourites. The only barrier to entry for content providers would be to agree to common standards, potentially helped by a best practice software development kit.

With Virgin's on-demand TV platform now accounting for a quarter of iPlayer views and the service expected to launch on Sky at some stage in the future, the BBC is keen to ensure that it can offer shows on demand on free-to-air TV.