Complaints delay BBC apps launch
The BBC’s planned launch of a range of iPhone applications could miss the general election and the World Cup after complaints by rivals prompted a review by its governing body.
Erik Huggers, the BBC’s director of future media and technology, announced its mobile apps at February’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
A BBC News iPhone had been scheduled for an April launch while a BBC Sport app would follow in May, providing live video and audio updates. An iPlayer app is also in development, with software for other smartphone platforms expected later this year.
But the BBC Trust said on Monday that it would first have to “consider whether or not the plans constitute a significant change to BBC services” after the Newspaper Publishers’ Association complained the apps could hurt its members’ attempts to charge for content or sell advertising on their own mobile platforms.
The BBC had previously advised the Trust that a full review was not necessary because repurposing online content for mobile consumption was allowed under its online service licence.
A Trust spokesperson said it was “too early to say” if the review would be completed in time for the World Cup. It could decide that a full public value test is required before the apps can launch, a process which typically takes several months.
David Newell, director of the NPA, said: “It is vital that these proposals are scrutinised properly to avoid any adverse impact on commercial media organisations. We are pleased that the BBC Trust has listened to the industry’s concerns and acted to delay the planned April launch. We hope this will enable a thorough assessment to be undertaken.”
The Guardian, one of the few newspapers to charge for its iPhone app, played a leading role in the representations to the Trust. The FT revealed on Saturday that the Guardian, which has sold more than 100,000 apps for a one-off fee of £2.30 ($3.45), plans to levy a monthly subscription for the service.
Other members of the NPA include Trinity Mirror, News International and the Financial Times.
The BBC said in a statement: “We are focused on making BBC Online’s core web propositions more user-friendly, convenient and accessible, and using existing content to create truly distinctive products around our core public service areas. We look forward to helping the Trust with any further information they require about our plans.”
The Trust will investigate how far the apps would affect BBC users, any financial implications, whether they take the BBC into a “new area of untested activity” and how long they will be available for.
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