Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Newspaper group call to block BBC iPhone apps

iPhone apps
The BBC is entering a crowded market place

The BBC Trust has been urged to block the corporation's plans to launch phone apps for its news and sport content.

The Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) said that the corporation would "damage the nascent market" for apps.

The group said that it would also raise the issues with the the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and MPs on the Media Select Committee.

The BBC has said it plans to launch its first news app on the iPhone in April, followed by one for its sport content.

It is also planning to develop more apps for its popular on-demand video iPlayer.

"Not for the first time, the BBC is preparing to muscle into a nascent market and trample over the aspirations of commercial news providers," said David Newell, director of the NPA.

He said that the market for iPhone news apps was "a unique and narrow commercial space" that would be "distorted" by the BBC apps.

"This is not, as the BBC argues, an extension of its existing online service, but an intrusion into a very tightly defined, separate market."

Several newspapers already offer iPhone apps, including the Independent and the Daily Telegraph - which are free - and the Guardian - which costs £2.39.

Football focus

The BBC Trust, the body that regulates the BBC, said that the proposals to build the apps had not been referred to it for approval but it had been made aware of the plans.

"The BBC Executive has advised the Trust that it is satisfied that these plans to deliver BBC News, Sport and iPlayer content via smartphone apps fall within the terms of its existing BBC service licence and that the plans do not constitute a significant change to the service."

We strongly urge the BBC Trust to block these damaging plans, which threaten to strangle an important new market for news and information
David Newell

A spokesperson for the BBC said that its online service licence, granted by the BBC Trust, was "quite explicit in allowing the BBC to repurpose its online content for consumption on mobile devices".

The BBC news app, announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, will offer content from the BBC News website including written stories, correspondent blogs and video.

A sports app will be released before the World Cup, which starts in June, and will combine content from the BBC Sport website and 5 Live radio.

It will allow football fans to watch World Cup matches live on their phone.

The corporation said that it would initially focus on building applications for the iPhone but will then focus on developing similar software for Google's Android operating system and RIM (Blackberry).

The BBC's Erik Huggers said that the corporation's move was prompted by requests from licence fee payers.

"They tell us that they want to access the digital services that they have paid for at a time and place that suits them.

"We are catching up with our audiences, and the same content that we broadcast on television and make available online can now be better enjoyed on the move."

But Mr Newell said the development of apps "for a niche market does not sit comfortably with the BBC's mission to broadcast its content to a wide, general audience.

"We strongly urge the BBC Trust to block these damaging plans, which threaten to strangle an important new market for news and information."

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