Trust to investigate BBC iPhone apps

The BBC Trust is to conduct an assessment to determine whether plans for the corporation to introduce a series of downloadable smartphone applications constitute a “significant change to BBC services”.

The trust wrote to BBC executives today asking them to postpone the planned April launch of ‘apps’ for iPhone and other devices until the trust had conducted an investigation in four key areas.

The assessment will examine:

  • The extent to which the change is likely to affect users and others;
  • The financial implications of the change;
  • The extent to which the change would involve the BBC in a new area of untested activity;
  • How long the activity will last.

Last month, the Newspaper Publishers Association called on the BBC Trust to block the introduction of smartphone applications, saying free news and sport apps would damage the burgeoning commercial market for news applications on mobile devices.

At that time, the Trust said: “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. The proposals have not been referred to the Trust for approval.”

The NPA said it believed the planned introduction did represent a “change to service” and as such should be subject to a BBCTrust public value test.

Today’s annoucement opens the door to a possible public value test.

A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust told Press Gazette that if the assessment found that markets were at risk of being distorted or that the move did constitute a “significant change to service” then the trust could compel BBC management to seek a public value test ahead of any planned app introduction.

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.”

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