Green light for BBC smartphone content plans

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The Independent Tech

The BBC Trust gave controversial plans to deliver content through dedicated smartphone applications the green light today, after ruling they were not a significant change to the BBC's existing public services.

The Trust found plans to launch such applications (apps), for BBC news, sport and iPlayer, did not need further scrutiny with a public value test (PVT), which weighs public value against market impact.

The BBC's governing body decided to investigate the plans following representations from the industry earlier this year.

BBC Trustee Diane Coyle, who led the review, said: "The apps market is rapidly taking off as more people choose to get their news, sport and other online content while they're on the move.

"The Trust has a duty to represent the interests of licence fee payers, who will increasingly expect to access BBC content in this way, but also to listen to concerns raised by industry.

"In this case we have concluded that while the apps market is developing quickly and we will monitor the launch of BBC apps, a PVT is not required."

The BBC announced in February that it planned to launch specially tailored applications for iPhones and other high-end mobiles allowing access to BBC news and sport.

But the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) accused the BBC of barging into the market and trampling over commercial news firms which were exploring the growth area.

The Trust looked at the potential impact of the proposals, financial implications and whether apps would involve the BBC in a new area of untested activity.

Trustees found BBC apps were likely have a positive impact on users by providing easier access to online content, but they would not provide any new content.

Responding to industry concerns, the Trust considered that there would be "some overlap" between BBC apps and free apps, but that impacts may not necessarily be large - particularly as BBC content was already available to mobile users through their phone's web browser.

The degree of overlap with paid apps was also expected to be lower.

The Trust found financial implications were "low and not significant" and said the BBC has previously offered web applications on mobile phones and it did not consider smartphone apps to be a new area of activity.

The Trust said in a statement: "Considering these factors together Trustees concluded that the apps would not represent a significant change to the BBC's existing public services and that a public value test is therefore not required.

"The Trust also expects the BBC to make its apps available on other operating systems as soon as possible on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms."

The BBC has said it was satisfied it was allowed to reuse online content for phones.

A spokeswoman said previously: "We believe the BBC Online service licence is quite explicit in allowing the BBC to repurpose its online content for consumption on mobile devices, something the BBC has successfully executed for a decade for the benefit of the licence fee-payer."