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BBC ices launch of free iPhone news app

Beeb Trust investigates Auntie's Apple fondle

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Next month's release of iPhone apps for BBC news and sports coverage has been shelved, while the BBC Trust probes the proposal.

The Corporation’s governing body asked the BBC to hold off on development of the service until the trust has considered whether the free apps can be justified.

According to a report on the BBC, the trust halted work on the planned service after it was approached by “representations from industry”, who expressed their objections to the news and sports apps claiming such a move would distort the market.

The Guardian newspaper currently offers a fee-based app for its iPhone service, intended for anyone too lazy to browse for the site on their Apple device. The Daily Telegraph and the Independent offer free versions of their news output via an iPhone app.

The Beeb talked up its news apps, which Auntie said fell under the terms of its existing BBC service licence, last month in Barcelona at the Mobile World Conference. The Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) claimed at the time that the BBC’s planned service would “damage the nascent market” for apps.

The trust will consider if the apps are simply an add-on to the BBC’s current services or whether they represent a new offering that could stifle other news outlets.

If the BBC governing body finds there is a case to be answered, it will then open up its investigation to public scrutiny, before making a decision about the fate of iPhone apps offered by the Beeb.

Given the hoopla surrounding the planned cuts at the BBC, it's hardly surprising to see the trust respond so quickly to gripes coming out of the commercial sector about the apps.

In recent months the BBC has been undergoing something of an identity crisis, after its director-general Mark Thompson admitted that the Corporation needed to reel back some of its operations, particularly hitting online and digital radio, where both 6Music and the Asian Network are up for the chop.

As part of that strategy review the Beeb's head of future media and technology, Erik Huggers, published a list of the BBC's top level directories today covering its website output.

"We will be making some tough decisions about what we want to commit to in future, and what not," noted Huggers. ®

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