BBC iPhone apps put on hold

The planned BBC News and Sport iPhone apps have been put on hold following complaints they would damage commercial rivals.

BBC iPhone apps put on hold

The BBC Trust, the broadcaster’s governing body, will investigate whether the apps fall under the BBC’s remit and form an extension of its existing services, or represent an entirely new service. If the trust finds that they are not part of existing services, a lengthier investigation of public value will take place.

Executives at the BBC have argued the apps fall under its existing service licence. However, The Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA), which represents major UK news groups such as News International and the Guardian Media Group, has come out strongly against the plans, and issued a letter to the BBC Trust calling for a “public value test”.

It is extremely disappointing that the corporation plans to launch services that would throw into serious doubt the commercial sector’s ability to… support quality journalism

The group argues that the BBC giving away content for free will damage the emerging market for paid news apps. “It is extremely disappointing that the corporation plans to launch services that would throw into serious doubt the commercial sector’s ability to make a return on its investment, and therefore its ability to support quality journalism,” said David Newell, director of the NPA.

Several newspapers and tabloids have already developed iPhone apps, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Star and The Daily Telegraph. These apps are all currently free, with the exception of The Guardian, which charges a one-off fee of £2.39. They do, however, generate income via advertising.

The BBC’s proposed apps

Both BBC apps were scheduled for release in April after being unveiled at last month’s Mobile World Congress. They will repackage the BBC’s online content, including news, video and blogs. The broadcaster also announced plans to develop apps for Android and BlackBerry handsets after the iPhone app launch was complete.

“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,” a BBC spokesperson said.

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